SEBRING — A jailer who told his supervisors he checked inmates the night a prisoner committed suicide at the Highlands County Jail in June was fired last week after evidence contradicted his statement, Sheriff Susan Benton said Friday.
Evidence indicated that despite Paul Robitaille’s assertions that he made eyeball-to-eyeball checks of all prisoners, he had failed to do so, Benton said.
In an unrelated case, Benton fired deputy Jesse Sapp last week in part because a report involving a drug arrest contained numerous inaccuracies.
In the first case, Benton said, Robitaille’s failure to check the inmates occurred the night when Scott Alexander Wilkie, 37, killed himself. Authorities have never said how Wilkie killed himself.
Whether a check by Robitaille would have prevented the suicide or saved the life of Wilkie remains uncertain, Benton said.
Immediately following the suicide, Benton said, an initial inquiry indicated that jail employees did what they were supposed to do regarding monitoring inmates.
Wilkie, who was facing charges of one count each of sexual battery and lewd/lascivious molestation and four counts of lewd/lascivious exhibition, was housed in a more restrictive area of the jail than the general population, but not the most secure area where the inmates are constantly watched, Benton said in June.
Typically, she said, inmates who had problems with other inmates or are having discipline problems ended up in that section of the jail.
The other firing involved an arrest that occurred on July 26 of Daryl Tomblin. Subsequently, the State Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the case.
In a memo to Benton regarding Sapp, who was still in his new hire probationary period at the time, Maj. David Paeplow wrote that Sapp’s report of the incident contained inaccuracies and that the initial report did not adequately support the arrest and was misleading.
Paeplow wrote that the report stated Deputies Sapp and Richard Kilborn were conducting surveillance at a business at the time when Tomblin arrived. However, an investigation showed that the two deputies arrived there after following a vehicle to the location, Paeplow wrote.
The report also said the deputies saw Tomblin exit the business, although the evidence shows the deputies saw him some time after he left the business.
Sapp later said that “you don’t actually have to see something to observe it,” Paeplow said.
Paeplow also questioned whether Sapp followed correct procedure in having a strip search conducted of Tomblin.
“Clear, accurate report writing is of paramount importance as a law enforcement officer,” Paeplow wrote. “Deputy Shapp’s misleading use of his own terms in a report is not acceptable at any time, especially to justify reasonable suspicion or probable cause for an arrest.”
Reports also state that Paeplow and Kilborn questioned Tomblin, but failed to give him his Miranda rights.
Kilborn received a reprimand and was placed on probation for six months, records state.