Father looking for answers after son's death in jail cell

Muskogee, Oklahoma (AP) 9-07

A distraught father is finding more questions than answers about the death of his 22-year-old son in a Cherokee County jail cell.

Aaron Colby Riddle apparently used a T-shirt or another article of clothing to fashion a noose to hang himself, authorities said. A jail employee found Riddle dead about 10:45 p.m. September 13th, hanging from the top bunk in his cell. He was last seen alive at 7:45 p.m.

Riddle's father, Eugene, said his son was being treated for depression prior to his arrest.

Eugene Riddle said he notified authorities of his son's mental state and was told his son was being monitored around the clock to guard against a suicide attempt.

“I am placing this in the Lord's hands now,” Riddle said September 11th as he prepared for his son's funeral on Wednesday. “(Today) will be the toughest day of my life, but we'll get through this.”

Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault said Riddle was jailed Sept. 4 after he was arrested for suspicion of being involved in some burglaries reported to have occurred near Lake Tenkiller.

Chennault said he was told Riddle was kept under suicide watch at the Cherokee County Detention Center until September 13th morning, when he was transferred to a different cell, where he was locked down by himself.

Chennault said the new detention facility is operated by a trust authority, not the sheriff's office. Trust officials couldn't be reached for comment on September 11th .

Don Garrison, supervisor of the Oklahoma Department of Health's Jail Inspection Division, said an investigator from his office visited the jail September 10th and interviewed staff members and others about Riddle's death.

Inspectors who investigate jail deaths generally look at such things as adequate staffing and surveillance, Garrison said.

He said he was unaware of the particular circumstances surrounding Riddle's death, but added that state law requires jail employees to sight-check inmates every hour.

Chennault said jail workers found Riddle facing the wall with his feet on the floor and a noose around his neck.

He said jail workers' attempts to revive Riddle failed, and emergency medical workers pronounced him dead when they arrived at the jail.

Eugene Riddle said he was told his son had been transported from the jail to a hospital and pronounced dead there.


Information from: Muskogee Phoenix,