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Inmate’s death ruled suicide

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An inmate at the Johnson County jail committed suicide earlier this month by swallowing an unknown amount of toilet paper, officials said.

James Wilkerson, 42, of 420 Shady Brook Heights, Greenwood, died on Saturday at Johnson Memorial Hospital. An autopsy was done Monday. Johnson County Coroner Craig Lutz said Wilkerson died of asphyxiation of a foreign object and ruled the death a suicide.

Wilkerson had been at the jail since April 29 after he was arrested on a felony charge of drug dealing. On May 13, correctional officers found Wilkerson unresponsive in his cell, where he was housed alone, a Johnson County Sheriff’s Office news release said.

Wilkerson had been speaking with jail staff about 10 minutes before he was found unconscious in his cell, the news release said.

Correctional officers, Franklin fire officials and medics worked to resuscitate Wilkerson before taking him to Johnson Memorial Hospital. Wilkerson died from the trauma caused by the asphyxiation, or suffocation, four days later, Lutz said.

Inmates at the jail can be placed on suicide watch if they threaten to harm themselves. When that happens, correctional officers check on the inmates every 10 to 15 minutes, Sheriff Doug Cox said.

Wilkerson was not on suicide watch, and Cox doesn’t know of any threats he made against himself.

The last time an inmate died at the jail was more than two years ago, and this is the first time an inmate has committed suicide since Cox has been sheriff, he said.

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