The family members of Justin T. Matthews, who hung himself at Winnebago County Jail last year, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the facility.
According to the lawsuit, jail staff members could have prevented Matthews’ death if they checked up on him properly. Matthews allegedly talked about committing suicide as he entered the jail on Aug. 24, 2017 after getting arrested for stabbing a man to death. He was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count each of aggravated battery and unlawful restraint in the death of Brian Thomas Abbott.
Matthews was found hanging in his cell on Jan. 20, 2018 at 5:50 a.m. Corrections officer Matthew Larson walked in on him and saw him with a thermal shirt tied around his neck and to the shelf. He died of asphyxiation.
Just hours before his death, Larson said that he saw Matthews pacing around his cell. He checked in on him a couple of times and saw him sitting under the shelf with his arm extended.
“It wouldn’t take a very long time to render him unconscious,” Craig M. Sandberg, the family’s attorney, said, adding he doesn’t yet have records indicating whether Matthews was in that position earlier than 5 a.m. “That is a strange position for someone to be in at 5 a.m. How meaningful was your checking on him?”
Sandberg added that Matthews’ death was entirely preventable.
“Justin’s suicide was preventable by having him in a suicide-free environment and having meaningful and quality observations in (the) environment he had been placed in,” he said.
Jail Superintendent Bob Redmond declined to leave any comments about the lawsuit.