Coroner: Video deleted by sheriff's office is key in Brown County inmate's death

GEORGETOWN, Ohio – Brown County's coroner says a key piece of video evidence taken moments before an inmate's death was deleted by the county jail.

The "missing" video is one of three pieces of jail surveillance that show Zachary Goldson during the last 30 minutes of his life. The 24-year-old was later found hanging from a bed sheet in the Adult Detention Center on Oct. 5, nine days after his arrest on Sept. 26.

The video was captured by two motion-activated cameras at the jail, and shows authorities bringing Goldson back to his cell after he attacked a deputy, according to jail documents.

But Brown County Coroner Judith Varnau said footage from a third camera, which gave a view from the hallway outside Goldson's cell, is missing – deleted by the sheriff’s office.

At about 2:41 a.m. the day before his death, Goldson was taken to a hospital after swallowing a pen. He returned to his cell at 3:38 a.m.

Later that same day at 11:18 p.m., he began vomiting after swallowing another pen, as well as a toothbrush and some staples, according to jail documents.

READ: Goldson's mother speaks out after homicide ruling

MORE: Video shows conversation between officers before Goldson's death -- "I’d like to break your f***ing neck right now"

Goldson was scheduled to have an endoscopy to remove the objects and was discharged to Deputy Travis Justice for transportation. But when the deputy unlocked his vehicle, authorities said Goldson attacked him and used his shackles to hit him over the head. Documents say Goldson also attempted to steal the deputy's firearm.

Several hospital staff members were out for a smoke break during the attack and were able to hold Goldson down.

At 2:35 a.m., three jail personnel put Goldson back in cell No. 15, first removing his belongings and his blanket. Documents say the three "did not notice" that his bed sheet was still with him.

Twenty-five minutes later, Goldson was dead, found hanging from a sprinkler head in the cell.

The video obtained by the I-Team shows Goldson at 2:33 a.m. He appears to be alive and holding his head up. There are no obvious signs of injuries.

Varnau said deputies told her the missing video was deleted because the jail’s cameras erase older video to make way for new recordings.

Immediately after discovering Goldson's body, the Brown County sheriff called in the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), which has not completed its inquiry on the death.

Chief Deputy J.K. Schadle said part of BCI’s investigation is the deleted video that Varnau is referring to. He said BCI obtained the video before it was deleted by the jail’s surveillance system.

Last week, Schadle released a statement that called out the coroner's findings.

"The Brown County Sheriff's Office contacted BCI upon the discovery of an in-custody death...The (sheriff's office) has full confidence that BCI will reach their conclusions based on facts, not someone's political agenda," he said.

In 2008, Varnau's husband Dennis ran for Brown County sheriff and lost. Schadle says Varnau's decisions are based purely on politics, and once BCI's investigation is complete, the facts will show Goldson killed himself.

"I think if you review the facts as I understand them -- I don't know what facts would lead to the conclusion of a homicide," Schadle said. "I think BCI's report will probably spell that out in detail."

Goldson was arrested in September and was charged with having a weapon under disability, possessing a dangerous ordnance -- a sawed off .22-caliber weapon -- and shooting across a roadway near his mother’s home.

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