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Friday, July 10th, 2009

Fort Recovery man hangs himself inside jail cell

By Margie Wuebker
A 44-year-old Mercer County Jail inmate facing the likelihood of prison died Thursday afternoon after he reportedly hung himself with a bed sheet.
Ronald Abels, 279 St. Anthony Road, Fort Recovery, was pronounced dead on arrival at Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater.
He was found by a corrections officer shortly after 2 p.m. hanging from a sheet tied to the bars of his second-floor cell. Two inmates - Marcus Beard and Rueben Rios - were released from a nearby cell in order to help get Abels down. Officers began CPR and Celina Fire Department medics responded to the scene.
Sheriff Jeff Grey explained the cell has a metal door with a window on one side and bars on the other, with fellow inmates unable to see inside. Abels - the lone occupant - apparently took sheets from his bed and knotted them above a horizontal brace to keep the noose from sliding down the vertical bars, Grey added.
A preliminary investigation indicates the corrections staff checked on Abels shortly after 1:30 p.m. and found nothing amiss. The staff had no reason to suspect the inmate was suicidal, according to the sheriff.
The Bureau of Adult Detention standards recommends checking on inmates at least once an hour. However, the sheriff's office policy states each inmate in regular housing is to be checked at least three times per hour by the jail staff at irregular intervals.
"This is the first tragedy of this type at the jail in over 20 years," Grey said. "The corrections officers on duty were following policy and were in compliance."
The officer, who found the body, was visibly shaken and was given several days off after speaking with a mental health counselor.  
Abels was being held on a $100,000 cash bond from Mercer County Common Pleas Court for allegedly violating terms of community control sanctions from an April 2007 case. The violation stemmed from his July 2 arrest on a felony drug charge. He also was being held on a $500,000 bond in Celina Municipal Court in the wake of that arrest with the case likely headed for grand jury consideration later this month. He reportedly appeared in both courts on Wednesday.
Probation officers doing a random check at his home reportedly found evidence of drugs and contacted the sheriff's office. Armed with a search warrant, deputies found what is believed to be marijuana and methamphetamine
The Fort Recovery man was indicted in October 2007 on 16 charges stemming from an April search of his 8-acre property littered with more than 150 junk vehicles.
Deputies executed a search warrant dealing with a vehicle title issue at Abels' property located between state Route 49 and State Line Road in Washington Township. The sheriff said at the time deputies stumbled onto evidence including handguns, a sawed-off shotgun and a suspicious substance later found to be methamphetamine.
Abels eventually pleaded guilty to possessing drugs, having weapons under disability and committing an offense related to a motor vehicle. As part of a negotiated agreement, the state dismissed 12 additional weapons charges. He is prohibited from possessing firearms due to a past felony conviction for drug trafficking.
Judge Jeffrey Ingraham warned Abels at the time of sentencing that any CCS violations would lead to a three-year prison sentence.
In arguing for probation, attorney Dan Myers said his client was afraid of prison or jail and given the opportunity to prove himself would not come before the court again.
The latest felony charge carries a prison sentence of up to eight years upon conviction.
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