TIPTON – All employees at the Tipton County Jail have been cleared of any wrongdoing following an investigation into an incident that led to the death of an inmate in mid-July.
County Prosecutor Jay Rich reached that decision after reviewing an investigation by the Indiana State Police into an alleged attempted suicide by Nicholas P. Lowe, 36, Noblesville, on July 12. Lowe died four days later.
The Kokomo Tribune was able to obtain a copy of the case report following a public records request.
At about 8:30 p.m. July 12, State Police Detective Joshua Rozzi responded to a request from Tipton County Sheriff Tony Frawley for assistance investigating the incident.
Lowe had been incarcerated for more than 48 hours when he was found unresponsive in the shower after apparently hanging himself at about 7:55 p.m. July 12.
Lowe was escorted to the shower at about 7:32 p.m. by corrections officers Joel Smith and Curtis Montgomery, similar to what had been done with last two evenings.
Twenty-three minutes later, Smith left the control room located across the hallway from the shower, and stepped into the shower room to check on Lowe.
Smith said he heard the shower still running and told investigators he yelled into the room, saying, “Are you OK?” He received no response, and asked again, “Are you doing OK?” Again, he received no response.
Smith then opened the door to the shower room and witnessed Lowe hanging from a shower towel that had been attached to the cage inside the shower.
The investigation revealed Lowe had tied the towel in a knot just above the cage door and tied it around his neck. Smith then told corrections officer Emily Nichols to call 911. The call to 911 went in at 7:56 p.m., one minute after Smith reported finding Lowe in the shower.
Smith opened the cage and grabbed the towel, which ripped. Lowe was unresponsive, so Nichols and Smith performed resuscitative efforts until medics arrived at 8 p.m.
Lowe was transported to IU Health Tipton Hospital, where staff obtained a pulse and decided to have him transported to IU Health Methodist Hospital by helicopter for further treatment. According to his obituary with Leppert Mortuary and Crematory Services, Lowe died July 16.
According to Rozzi, evidence at the scene indicated Lowe might have used a chair to tie the towel to the cage a little over 7 feet from the floor.
Lowe, who was 6-foot-1 and weighed 180 pounds, likely lowered himself while standing on the chair until the towel tightened around his neck, the case report said.
“In speaking with correctional officers who had any significant contact with Nicholas Lowe, it is evident they never observed any behavior that would’ve led them to believe Lowe had any intentions of harming himself,” Rozzi said in the case report. “With the exception of the first few hours Lowe was incarcerated, he was respectful, cooperate and polite with the correctional officers.”
Frawley informed Rozzi on July 13 that he had spoken to Lowe’s mother, Lina Lunsford. Lunsford informed Frawley that Lowe made comments about harming himself in the past. However, she never divulged that information to anyone.
Lowe was arrested by the Tipton Police Department at 4:40 p.m. July 10 on preliminary charges of domestic battery, and also had a body attachment warrant out of Johnson County.
He was agitated, began beating on the door of his holding cell and was placed in a restraint chair a little over an hour after his arrest. The case report said Lowe was not booked in until later in the evening due to his aggressive behavior.
At 9 p.m. that night, Lowe was administered a breathalyzer test, which showed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.20.
Just after midnight July 11, Lowe was booked in. At that time, Smith reported that Lowe was not displaying behavior that suggested he was suicidal. Lowe denied having any intentions of harming himself before being fed and allowed to make a phone call.
Lowe calmed down over the course of his stay, and his behavior reportedly improved as the intoxication from the alcohol gradually wore off. He was treated for alcohol withdrawals in the early morning hours of July 12.