Detention officers return to work, SBI report not yet released

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

BOLIVIA—Two Brunswick County Detention Officers who have been on paid administrative leave following the sudden death of an inmate in jail last month have been allowed to return to work.

Brunswick County Sheriff Ronald Hewett said Monday detention officers Karl Scoggins and Dustin Riddle “are off paid administrative leave effective immediately.”

Scoggins and Riddle have been on paid administrative leave since Jan. 23, when Senaca Marrell Vaught, 32, of 371 Tree Acres Drive in Calabash, died suddenly while in custody at the Brunswick County Detention Center.

Both officers were on paid administrative leave while the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation investigated the incident. That is standard procedure for the death of an inmate, Hewett said.

While the SBI report has not yet been released, Hewett said he met with district attorney Rex Gore on Sunday to discuss the case.

“After reviewing the case at this time [Gore] did not oppose Scoggins and Riddle returning to work,” he said.

According to Hewett, Vaught, who had been in custody since Dec. 25 for assault on a female, had been placed in an observation cell Jan. 16 because he began to exhibit abnormal behavior. He had been considered a threat to himself.

Vaught, who had no previous criminal record, had an appointment scheduled at Evergreen Mental Health Feb. 1, Hewett said.

Around 9:30 p.m. Jan. 23, Scoggins and Riddle responded to Vaught’s solitary observation cell because he was kicking the door, Hewett said.

When Scoggins and Riddle responded to Vaught’s cell, Vaught charged at the officers.

Vaught struck Riddle in the face, and then heat-butted Scoggins.

After Vaught struck both officers, they responded by pepper-spraying Vaught, Hewett said.

Vaught fell to the floor and stopped breathing. The officers immediately began performing CPR, Hewett said, taking turns with other officers for about 40 minutes before Vaught was pronounced dead.

An autopsy was performed Jan. 24 at the Onslow County Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville.

But Hewett said the autopsy, performed by Dr. Buddy Jarrett, was ruled inconclusive.

“There was no physiological reason for death found—no wounds, no bruises, no gash marks,” Hewett said. He said blunt force trauma was ruled out, and Jarrett saw “nothing unusual in the arteries.”

Riddle was treated and released from Brunswick Community Hospital.

Hewett said all evidence from the incident was turned over to the SBI.

“Certainly, from our observation, it was justified,” Hewett said, adding a surveillance video of the event has been given to the SBI as evidence in the investigation.