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Inmate dies of apparent suicide in county jail

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By Sam Hickman

An Ash man incarcerated at the Brunswick County Detention Facility on a first-degree murder charge died Wednesday, July 23, from an apparent suicide, spokeswoman Emily Flax said.

Thomas Jason Holland, 28, of Babson Road NW, was found unresponsive in his cell at 1:14 a.m., according to a sheriff’s office news release.

“He is the victim of an apparent suicide,” the release read.

Sheriff John Ingram and District Attorney Jon David requested a death in custody investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation, which is standard protocol for an inmate death in North Carolina.

“It’s important in these situations to request an independent review from an outside group of detectives,” David said. “They’re working as we speak.”

The sheriff’s office’s Professional Standards unit is conducting a separate internal affairs investigation.

“During the initial stages of these investigations, there have been no indications of foul play, nor have there been any apparent violations of BCSO policies and procedures,” according to the release.

Holland was not on suicide watch at the time of his death, Flax said. Inmates on suicide watch are isolated from the rest of the population and monitored. Detention officers check on watch inmates every 15 minutes, but Holland was part of the general population inside the jail.

“We had no indication he needed to be outside the general population,” Flax wrote in an email to the Beacon.

Holland has been incarcerated without bail since Dec. 15 on several felony charges, including first-degree murder.

Holland was charged with first-degree murder in the Dec. 13 death of 69-year-old Tony Kusta of Ash.

Deputies found Kusta’s body inside his Simmons Road home the afternoon of Dec. 14. A friend who last spoke with Kusta on Dec. 13 asked deputies to check on him, Flax said in a previous interview. Kusta lived alone.

Preliminary autopsy results show Kusta died of blunt force trauma to the head. Investigators believe Holland forced his way into Kusta’s home and then, during the struggle, struck Kusta in the head with the stock of a shotgun, the sheriff said.

Holland was arrested Dec. 15 on multiple charges, including breaking and entering and larceny in several break-ins that occurred throughout December, including one at Kusta’s home. He had been in custody at the Brunswick County Detention Facility since that time.

Holland was charged with felony breaking and entering and larceny Dec. 6 after he was accused of stealing a shotgun, a safe containing $4,000, assorted watches, a class ring and miscellaneous legal documents from Kusta’s home. The stolen property was valued at $4,375, arrest warrants show.

A warrant was issued Dec. 18 for Holland’s arrest on the murder charge.

In a December interview, Sheriff John Ingram said Holland was “very cooperative” during his incarceration.

Holland was also facing charges of breaking and entering, larceny, breaking and entering a motor vehicle, larceny of a motor vehicle and injury to real property.

David said the state can’t legally prosecute a dead person, so the District Attorney’s Office filed a written dismissal of the homicide case against Holland in Superior Court on Wednesday morning.

“Prior to filing the dismissal, we contacted the victim’s family in the homicide case to let them know what was occurring,” he said. “(Because of) the in custody death, we’re not capable of proceeding forward.”

The last death in the Brunswick County Detention Facility was Dec. 23, 2011, when Steven Myers of Cary died of an apparent suicide, Flax said. No criminal charges were filed in Myers’ death, which was also investigated by the SBI.

 

Sam Hickman is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or shickman@brunswickbeacon.com.