S.C. murder suspect dies in custody of sheriff’s office

cwootson@charlotteobserver.comOctober 20, 2013 

— Hours after a murder suspect became the second inmate in six weeks to die in the custody of York County jailers, Sheriff Bruce Bryant said he has “the utmost confidence” that his detention officers are handling prisoners properly.

Authorities say Joshua Grose, 34, died after he tried to drown himself in the toilet of his jail cell and then was held for several hours in a restraint chair. Grose was jailed after being charged with killing his mother and another woman on Friday evening.

It was unclear Sunday whether Grose’s death was a suicide, and it was not clear how he died. The York County coroner plans to conduct an autopsy on Monday morning, and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating the death.

Bryant, who oversees the detention center, said the inmate deaths don’t indicate a systemic problem with his jail. He said his office is cooperating fully with outside investigators.

“I have the utmost confidence in the people there and that our people did what they’re trained to do,” he told the Observer on Sunday. “...But we’re going to make darn sure that when everything is said and done that the York County Detention Center is above board.”

None of the officers involved in either death investigation have been suspended, Bryant said. It was not clear Sunday how many detention officers were involved in Grose’s case. According to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Trent Faris, there were 20 officers working at the jail during the incident, and the jail housed 369 inmates.

The first case happened Aug. 31. William Joseph Blinn, 26, awaiting trial in connection with a burglary at a Rock Hill market, was found unresponsive in his jail cell around 1 p.m. He died about 10 hours later at Carolinas Medical Center, where he had been flown by helicopter.

Faris said the coroner is awaiting toxicology results to officially determine how Blinn died, but investigators have called the death a suicide.

Inmate faced murder charges

On Friday, Grose was charged with two counts of murder after investigators say he struck two women with a stolen car – including his mother.

The women, Sandra Grose, 65 and Sandra Thomas, 53, lived around the corner from each other in the River Pines subdivision in northwest Rock Hill.

Grose was trying to steal Thomas’ car on Friday evening, Faris said. While committing that crime, he struck her with the vehicle, which killed her, he said.

Then Grose went home, assaulted his mother and struck her with the vehicle, Faris said. She died of blunt force trauma to the chest, according to York County Coroner Sabrina Gast. Police found her outside her home. Investigators haven’t said how the third victim was injured.

She was a tax preparer who also taught martial arts at American Martial Arts in Rock Hill, said Randy Cornell, the owner of the karate school, who said he worked with her for 20 years. “This whole thing has shocked all of us,” Cornell said. “Her students are heartbroken.”

Combative and restrained

Until Friday, Joshua Grose had never been charged with a violent felony, according to a search of criminal records. He was sent to prison in 2012 after convictions for driving under the influence and other traffic offenses, according to court records. Grose was convicted of a drug offense in 2004.

After Friday’s killings, Grose was booked into the York County Detention Center just after 11 p.m., charged with murder and grand larceny.

He was combative and “very uncooperative with detention officers from the beginning,” Faris said.

Early Sunday, Faris said, Joshua Grose tried to drown himself in his cell’s toilet. He also banged his head on the wall of his cell.

Grose was combative with the jailers who tried to stop him from killing himself, Faris said. They placed him into a restraint chair, which has straps and cuffs that can be secured to immobilize prisoners, but he repeatedly banged his head on the back of the chair. As jailers tried to fit him with a helmet, they noticed a laceration on the back of his head and called paramedics.

The paramedics arrived about 1:20 a.m. Because Grose was so combative, Faris said, they couldn’t conduct a full examination.

Still, the paramedics told detention officers his lacerations didn’t require stitches, and they didn’t take him to the hospital.

Detention officers placed Grose on suicide watch and put him back in the restraint chair, Faris said.

He was found restrained in the chair, unresponsive, about 2:20 a.m.

Detention officers performed CPR as they waited for paramedics. Paramedics, who said Grose was in cardiac arrest when they got to the jail, continued CPR as the ambulance sped to the hospital.

Grose was pronounced dead at 3:05 a.m. The (Rock Hill) Herald’s Jie Jenny Zou contributed to this report.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson

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