Prison guard pleads guilty to beating handcuffed inmate to death

Image Credit: Illinois Department of Corrections, via Associated Press

Charged with assaulting a
handcuffed inmate and subsequently covering up the fatal attack, a sergeant at
Western Illinois Correctional Center recently pleaded guilty to two counts of
civil rights violations and one count of providing misleading information. Two
other correctional officers involved in the assault have pleaded not guilty and
are currently awaiting trial.

On May 17, 2018, Western Illinois
Correctional Center (WICC) Lt. Todd Sheffler, Sgt. Willie Hedden, and
correctional officer Alex Banta transported inmate Larry Earvin, 65, from his
residential unit to the segregation housing unit. During the transport, the
officers severely beat Earvin despite the fact that his hands were cuffed
behind his back and posed no physical threat to them.

Earvin suffered 15 rib fractures, a
, and two dozen or more abrasions, hemorrhages, and lacerations.
Surgery to remove a portion of his bowel followed the injury.

Five weeks later, Earvin died at Centralia
Correctional Center hospital on June 26, 2018. His death was ruled a homicide
due to blunt force trauma.

Earvin had been serving a six-year
sentenced for robbery and was scheduled for parole in September 2018.

Following the assault, Sheffler,
Hedden, and Banta each allegedly filed false incident reports that failed to
disclose their assault on Earvin. Hedden was charged in an additional count of obstruction
that alleged he persuaded a friend, a fellow employee at WICC, to delete a text
message Hedden had sent following the May 17 incident, to conceal and destroy
information relating to the offenses charged.

On December 5, 2019, Sheffler,
Hedden, and Banta were placed under arrest. They were charged with conspiracy
to deprive civil rights, deprivation of civil rights, conspiracy to obstruct
justice, falsification of document, and misleading conduct. In addition, Hedden
was charged with destruction of a record or other object.

On Tuesday, Hedden pleaded guilty
to one count of conspiracy to deprive civil rights, one count of deprivation of
civil rights under color of law resulting in bodily injury and death, and one
count of providing misleading information in the investigation of Earvin’s
death. According to his plea deal, Hedden has agreed to cooperate in the
ongoing investigation against Sheffler and Banta.

Sheffler and Banta are currently
scheduled to begin trial on June 28. 2021. U.S. District Judge Richard Mills
scheduled Hedden’s sentencing for July 21.

Hedden faces possible life
for the two civil rights charges and another 20 years for the
misleading information charge.


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