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Published: Thursday, 4/16/2009

Lucas County Sheriff deputies beat inmate to death, witness says

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Former corrections officer Tina Hill had no doubt in her mind what happened to inmate Carlton Benton in the Lucas County Jail.

As she saw it, sheriff's deputies beat him to death.

"This poor man was laying butt naked on his stomach on the bed, and the officers were jumping and jumping, and stomping and kicking and punching and smothering his face and choking him," Ms. Hill, who now goes by her maiden name Tina Anaya, told sheriff's investigators in March of last year regarding Mr. Benton's 2004 death.

Her statement reactivated the case that led to Tuesday's grand jury indictment of Lucas County Sheriff James Telb, one of his top commanders, a former deputy sergeant, and a former deputy sheriff.

Sheriff James Telb said charges that he tried to hide information about the 2004 jail incident are unfounded. He is charged with making false statements. Sheriff James Telb said charges that he tried to hide information about the 2004 jail incident are unfounded. He is charged with making false statements.
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

Ms. Anaya, 35, was quoted in a sheriff's office interview transcript obtained by The Blade.


She described how Mr. Benton had been "hog tied" and moments earlier, slammed into the wall and elevator.

"So I'm standing there watching and saying to myself, 'Oh my god I can't believe they are doing this and I told the nurse, you guys somebody's gotta stop this, they gotta stop this,'•" Ms. Anaya told sheriff's Detective Mark Woodruff and Detective Cathy Stooksbury on March 10, 2008.

Former Sheriff s Sgt. John Gray, left, and Deputy Jay Schmeltz, center, are charged with deprivation of rights and falsification of documents. Capt. Robert McBroom also is charged in the jail death. Former Sheriff s Sgt. John Gray, left, and Deputy Jay Schmeltz, center, are charged with deprivation of rights and falsification of documents. Capt. Robert McBroom also is charged in the jail death.
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She told the detectives that when the beating eventually stopped, "... they left him handcuffed and he was laying on the bed, just like this. Not moving, not breathing. I went to the door and I looked and I came back and I said, that is a dead man, that man is dead."

Authorities said that Mr. Benton, 25, of North Toledo, who was accused of slaying his paralyzed cousin and the cousin's wife, died two days later on June 1, 2004, in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

An autopsy by Deputy Lucas County Coroner Dr. Cynthia Beisser found no evidence of trauma, foul play, or abuse. However, the U.S. Department of Justice asserted this week that Mr. Benton allegedly died because of strangulation and assault that he received in jail.

On Tuesday, a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court in Toledo issued a 12-count indictment bringing criminal charges against Sheriff Telb; John Gray, a former sergeant at the jail; Jay Schmeltz, a former deputy sheriff, and current Capt. Robert McBroom, an Internal Affairs investigator for the sheriff's office.

Ms. Anaya, who was employed at the jail from January, 2001, until 2008, stepped forward with her account on March 10, 2008 - the same day that her superiors recommended she be fired.

Ms. Anaya had compiled a long list of disciplinary reprimands at the sheriff's office, including one for a criminal conviction for lying to authorities in an apparent attempt to protect her boyfriend and now ex-husband, Jason Hill.

That incident stemmed from an April, 2002, run-in with Toledo police when Ms. Anaya gave officers a wrong name as they were attempting to find Mr. Hill during an assault investigation.

She was convicted in Toledo Municipal Court for "obstructing justice; communicating false information," for which she was sentenced to 60 days in jail. The sentence was suspended.

A second conviction came after she gave another fake name for Mr. Hill to a state trooper in October, 2007.

For that charge she was sentenced in Sylvania Municipal Court to 20 days of electronic monitoring, 40 hours of community service, and ordered to complete psychological counseling.

The alleged details of Mr. Benton's death emerged during an interview at Ms. Anaya's home that occurred hours after the disciplinary hearing related to her 2007 lying incident.

After she was told by a hearing officer that he was recommending her dismissal, she blurted out, "I witnessed two people who were murdered in this jail and you [expletive deleted] didn't do nothing," according to department records.

Following the outburst, detectives Woodruff and Stooksbury visited her home.

During their interview, Ms. Anaya expressed surprise at the detectives' assertion that the coroner found "no physical signs of [Mr. Benton] being beaten."

"I know what I saw. I know what I saw," she maintained. "What I saw was mistreatment. What I saw was these officers holding him down, handcuffed, naked, who was not fighting them, who was no longer even resisting they're jumping on him. They're punching him. They're kicking him. They're screaming at him."

Ms. Anaya also recounted how a female colleague at the jail warned her to not tell anyone what she saw happen to Mr. Benton.

"She said, 'Tina, I was told to give you a message.' I said, 'What.' And they said, 'You keep your mouth shut if you know what's good for you.' I said, 'You tell him, I don't go for threats,'" she told the detectives.

In a report later that month, Detective Woodruff wrote that after numerous interviews with jail staff and Ms. Anaya, then known as Tina Hill, "There appear to be many inconsistencies with the incident as described by Tina Hill."

The department's investigation concluded that no assault of punching or kicking appeared to have occurred.

Ms. Anaya's attorney, Matt Fech, said yesterday that she cooperated with the FBI's investigation. Despite his client's criminal history of lying to authorities, he said Ms. Anaya is telling the truth about what she saw happen to Mr. Benton nearly five years ago in the county jail.

"Tina is very credible," Mr. Fech said. "The information she has provided has been in such detail and has been consistent it leads me to believe that the information has been truthful."

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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