Ohio prison officials keep inmate bus murder report secret

Ohio prison officials are refusing to release an internal report on a how an inmate managed to murder another prisoner on a transport bus without the guards even noticing.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said on Friday that the report is exempt from public disclosure because it is a “security record.”

DRC opened its internal review sometime after inmate Casey Pigge pleaded guilty in September 2017 to the murder of 61-year-old David Johnson as they traveled on a prison bus between Columbus and Ross County on Feb. 1, 2017.

RELATED: Prison guards didn’t know inmate on bus was being murdered

That day, DRC guards loaded convicted killer Pigge, Johnson and 13 other inmates onto the bus. Pigge sat at the very back, out of sight of three corrections officers.

Witnesses told the Ohio Highway Patrol that minutes into the trip, Pigge slipped off his belly chain, moved up three rows and wrapped the three-foot chain against Johnson’s neck, pulling so hard that Johnson was lifted off the seat. After beating him and checking for a pulse, Pigge bragged about to others on the bus, witnesses said.

Guards reported that they didn’t notice anything amiss.

RELATED: Inmates suspected of stabbing guard moved to ‘super max’ prison

Pigge, now 30, is quickly becoming one of Ohio’s most notorious inmates:

• Sentenced to 30 years to life for the September 2008 murder of his ex-girlfriend’s mother;

• Pleaded guilty in January 2017 to beating his cellmate, Luther Wade of Springfield, to death at Lebanon Correctional on Feb. 23, 2016;

• Pleaded guilty to Johnson’s murder on the prison bus;

• Moved by prison officials to a super max facility after he and another inmate were suspected in a brutal attack on Corrections Officer Matthew Mathias. No charges have been filed yet on the Mathias attack.

RELATED: Holes in prison cell walls discovered after inmate murder

DRC spokesman Grant Doepel said that following the internal investigation, DRC decided to replace a “significant number” of buses and order new buses with factory installed camera systems. The department also issued precise bus loading directions that include dividing inmates based on security risk. It also created rules that inmates with extraordinary risk must be transported separately.

Wardens have been told to review records to make sure staff assigned to transport duties are appropriately trained, Doepel said in an email.

Inmates are transported in restraints — handcuffs, leg irons, belly chains. Doepel said since the prison bus murder, random restraint checks have been implemented and will be expanded.

Doepel did not answer questions about whether any guards or supervisors had been disciplined or fired.

About the Author