Guards, nurse charged in inmate’s death appear in court

Target 8

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In an especially contentious hearing, four Muskegon County Jail guards and a former jail nurse appeared in court on Wednesday on charges their negligence led to the death of an inmate.

The five are charged in the April 2019 death of Paul Bulthouse, 39, after he had suffered repeated seizures in a close-observation cell.

In the first half of an expected two-day preliminary hearing in Muskegon County District Court, five attorneys faced off against two assistant attorneys general.

The hearing is to determine if the five — guards Sgt. David VanderLaan, Jamall Lane, Crystal Greve and Jeffery Patterson, along with former jail nurse Aubrey Schotts — should face trial for involuntary manslaughter.

If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison.

The attorneys argued over mostly everything: the credibility of expert witnesses, including Wayne County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Carl Schmidt; whether the state was turning over all its evidence; even whether Bulthouse’s grandmother needed to be there to identify her grandson in a photograph.

But the biggest fight was over whether the state could use as evidence surveillance videos that showed Bulthouse’s 22 seizures and his death.

District Judge Geoffrey T. Nolan eventually ruled it could.

The death of Bulthouse led to an internal investigation at the jail. Muskegon County Sheriff Michael Poulin at first found no wrongdoing.

But a Target 8 investigation that included surveillance video from the jail led the state AG to take a look at the case.

On Wednesday, Target 8 learned that Wellpath, the out-of-state company that provided medical care at the jail, had agreed to an out-of-court settlement with the Bulthouse family for an undisclosed amount. The family had filed a federal lawsuit. An attorney for the family said he couldn’t comment. A spokeswoman for Wellpath also refused comment.

The county of Muskegon earlier agreed to pay the family $2.4 million to settle a federal lawsuit.

The preliminary hearing is expected to continue on Friday.

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