COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The family of a man beaten to death in the Muscogee County Jail is looking for answers and they’ve filed a lawsuit to get them.
Jayvon Hatchett,19, is charged in the beating death of Eddie Nelson Jr., his cellmate, at the time.
Hatchett was in jail facing charges of stabbing an AutoZone worker last month, and police said he told them it was because of the man’s race. Now, an attorney for Nelson’s family said they hope to bring light to a much bigger issue: mental health.
“People on both sides should look at this and say look, the system is broken. It’s broken for everybody and we need to work together to fix it," Craig Jones said.
Hatchett pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning, although it was reported a deputy said he witnessed the assault. New details were also revealed in Nelson’s death and came out in the courtroom.
Not only is there a criminal case against Hatchett, there is a wrongful death lawsuit filed against key leaders in the sheriff’s office.
“The utterance he made was the inmate put a hair in his sandwich," Sheriff Donna Tompkins said.
Whether killed over a sandwich or because of race, Hatchett admitted to authorities he killed his cellmate this past Saturday. In a hearing Wednesday morning, Hatchett’s plea was not guilty.
“This is not a ‘who done it.' We know who done it and he’s been charged with murder," Tompkins said.
Tompkins said one of her deputies witnessed the fight firsthand and saw Hatchett on top of Nelson strangling him. Because of Hatchett’s previous charges, a wrongful death lawsuit now names Tompkins and three others in a civil suit, claiming the leadership was deliberately indifferent to a known risk of serious harm.
“I’m guessing everybody in the sheriff’s department, if not most people in Columbus, Georgia, had heard of this incident. And somehow, this offender who committed a hate crime was put into a cell with somebody who said this was the type of person he wanted to kill," Jones said.
“We were not notified of the specifics behind this crime," Tompkins said in a press conference Tuesday. “I understand the media reported it, but that does not necessarily translate to to something law enforcement would pick up"
Jones said the victim’s family feels for Hatchett’s family and the pain they’re going through. Jones said the real issue here is mental health because he said this could have easily gone a different way.