MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The family of an inmate who died at the Muskegon County Jail on Thursday question if the jail was giving him the medication he needed and whether his attempted escape three days earlier somehow played a role in his death.
The father of inmate Paul Bulthouse said that no matter what his son was in jail for, it was the county’s job to keep him safe.
“Nobody ought to die in jail unless it’s some natural cause,” John Bulthouse said on Friday.
Jail guards found his son unresponsive in a one-person detox cell at 6 a.m. Thursday.
“There are some people who can’t be put in such an environment and survive,” the father said. “When he went to jail, my mother said he’s going to die in jail, and he did.”
Bulthouse, 39, who lived with his parents in Norton Shores, was in jail after a conviction earlier this year for possession of child porn.
His father defended him, saying his son had clicked on a link on his computer that was sent to him by a woman he thought was in his 20s.
“Clicking onto something has led to his death,” he said.
His son got five years probation, but no jail time until he violated probation by using the Internet, trying to reach out to a victim and failing to take sex offender treatment program, court records show.
“He was on Klonopin, prescribed by his doctor to control him, so he wouldn’t become violent, and as near as I know, they took that away from him,” his father said.
Klonopin is a sedative used to manage panic attacks and seizures.
Sheriff’s officials won’t say why Bulthouse was being held in a detox cell. They say the one-person cell is designed so guards can continuously monitor an inmate.
The father said his son was suicidal.
“That would be a side effect of not getting the proper medication,” he said.”He maybe exhibited some bad judgment, but he has a lot of medical problems, he has anxiety attacks, he has fibromyalgia, he has chronic fatigue syndrome, so he couldn’t hold a job.”
He also questions what happened during his son’s attempted jail escape three days before his death. Court records describe the attempt as violent, though it doesn’t provide details.
Muskegon County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Maat said Bulthouse tried to escape by pushing his way past an officer and out his cell door. He said he then took a swing at an EMT before another officer “took him to the ground” and handcuffed him, while Bulthouse continued to struggle. He said there was no indication the inmate suffered an injury.
His father he said he hadn’t heard from his son since the attempt led to felony charges of assaulting a jail officer and a jail EMT and with escape.
Jail Administrator Lt. Mark Burns refused to discuss details of the death, saying it’s under investigation and that they’re awaiting autopsy results.