MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Attorney General’s Office has filed manslaughter charges against five people for the death of a man who died after suffering 17 seizures at the Muskegon County Jail.
Four jail staff members — Jeffrey Patterson, Crystal Greve, Jamall Lane and Sgt. David Vanderlaan — and nurse Aubrey Schotts were charged Thursday with involuntary manslaughter-failure to perform a legal duty in connection to the death of Paul Bulthouse.
The AG’s Office launched its inquiry into Bulthouse’s death in August 2019 following a Target 8 investigation.
“After the first police sham investigation, I never thought anything would be done, so I’m at least pleased that somebody is taking it seriously,” Bulthouse’s father John Bulthouse said.
State prosecutors say the five defendants were on duty the night Paul Bulthouse, 39, suffered 17 seizures in a jail cell before dying on April 4, 2019.
According to a federal lawsuit filed by Bulthouse’s family, the three jail guards and Vanderlaan watched some of the seizures as they happened on video surveillance monitors at the guard’s station, which was just a few feet from Bulthouse’s cell, and did nothing about them. Jail surveillance video obtained by Target 8 shows Patterson watched one of the seizures through the cell door window before walking away.
“They were supposed to be monitoring him every 15 minutes or so and there were long periods — an hour or an hour and a quarter — where they never even looked at him, and when they saw him having seizures they did nothing, either,” John Bulthouse said. “It doesn’t give you a whole lot of confidence in the people in charge.”
Paul Bulthouse had been jailed 11 days before his death on a probation violation. Family members say the jail stopped giving him the Klonopin, a benzodiazepine, that he had been prescribed and didn’t properly ween him off it.
Muskegon County Sheriff Michael Poulin said in a Thursday release that his staff members have been “temporarily reassigned away from direct inmate supervision” pending the outcome of their criminal case, saying that “filing of charges is not proof of wrongdoing” and that “no evidence has been presented to the Sheriff’s Office by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, or otherwise, that would permit our officer to make any determination of wrongdoing.”
The Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office previously said its initial internal investigation found no wrongdoing and Poulin added in his release that an independent probe by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association Mission Team “found that sheriff’s office staff acted appropriately in providing care and the performance of cell checks.”
Bulthouse’s family’s multimillion-dollar lawsuit was filed against Poulin, jail administrators, guards, medical staff and Wellpath, the Tennessee-based contractor that provides medical care at the jail. It alleges that the sheriff’s office tried to cover up details of the death and that some jailers falsified reports to minimize their role.
Poulin added in his Thursday release that his department has been “completely transparent with investigators and the public.” But Marcel Benevides, the attorney representing Bulthouse’s family, questions that. He said he has asked for surveillance video from the days leading up to the death, but the sheriff refuses to release it.
Court records show all five defendants posted $10,000 bonds and were released. If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, each faces up to 15 years in prison.
“I think they should get the maximum sentence,” John Bulthouse said.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is expected to hold a virtual press conference at 11:30 a.m. Friday about the charges in the Bulthouse case as well as charges linked to the death of Anthony Hulon at the Lansing Police Department Detention Center. News 8 will bring you the press conference streaming live online.