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Former Sheriff's captain testifies
Mar 17, 2004 12:00 am
The former supervisor of the embattled Wilson County Jail has testified before a federal grand jury investigating the death of a jail inmate last year.
However, an attorney for former Wilson County Sheriff's Department Capt. David Hemontoler Sr. said the career lawman left his employment with the department for reasons unrelated to the federal probe and is still employed by the county.
Local attorney John Gwin confirmed Tuesday Hemontoler had testified before the federal grand jury in Nashville on Thursday.
He added that his client had not received a "target letter" from the grand jury, correspondence federal prosecutors use to notify actual targets of criminal investigations.
Hemontoler left the sheriff's department last year amid a shake-up of the jail staff in the wake of the federal probe and the death of inmate Walter Steven Kuntz.
Last week saw the resignation of Officer John McKinney, a three-year, nine-month veteran of the department who worked as a jail guard before becoming a patrol officer.
Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe confirmed McKinney's resignation was a "direct result" of the federal probe.
However, Gwin said this week Hemontoler had voluntarily left the sheriff's department for a variety of reasons unrelated to the federal government's inquiry into the jail.
"David had wanted to leave the sheriff's department for many years prior to this situation for health reasons," Gwin said. "The opportunity presented itself, and he took it. His leaving has nothing to do with the investigation the sheriff has asked for."
Ashe confirmed that Hemontoler's departure was unrelated to the investigation and also alluded to the former employees health.
"He was a good, loyal employee and he still is a very close friend," Ashe said. "He's had some health problems that I really can't comment on, but his leaving the department didn't have anything to do with this investigation that I'm aware of."
Wilson County Road Superintendent Steve Armistead confirmed Hemontoler is working as the mowing crew supervisor for the road department as a full-time county employee.
Two former jailers have already pleaded guilty to federal charges and at least two others are considered targets of the investigation, which began with the January 2003 death of 43-year-old Kuntz, whose head injury death was labeled a homicide by the state medical examiner.
Kuntz spent some seven hours behind bars after his arrest by Lebanon police before he was found inside his cell in a coma from which he never recovered. An autopsy indicated he sustained injuries consistent with a beating.
One of the two former jailers who have already pleaded guilty to charges contained in federal informations, Travis Bradley, is charged with lying to investigators who questioned him about a series of allegedly false incident reports he wrote describing an altercation between other guards and an inmate. The second jailer, William Westmoreland, is charged with assaulting an inmate. Both are to be sentenced later this year.
A jailer placed on suspension with pay shortly after the probe began, Cpl. Gary Hale, is also considered a target of the investigation, local attorney Frank Lannom, who is representing the officer, has acknowledged.
Another target is former Sgt. Patrick Marlowe, according to numerous sources familiar with the probe. Marlowe, formerly the jail's second shift supervisor, resigned shortly after the investigation began.