Local News

Inmate who apparently killed himself was not seen as suicide risk, sheriff says

SEBRING - Highlands County jail employees had no reason to believe that an inmate who apparently killed himself Monday was a suicide risk, Sheriff Susan Benton said Tuesday. Benton, who declined to confirm how Scott Alexander Wilkie, 37, would have killed himself, said that information would not be released until an investigation is complete. At the time of his death, Wilkie was housed in a more restrictive/secure area than the general jail population, but was not in the most restrictive area of the jail where inmates are watched constantly, Benton said. In Wilkie's area, guards check on prisoners at least once per hour, Benton said.
That type of area has a dayroom where inmates can interact, but at night, depending on the inmate population in the area, each inmate may have his or her own cell. Many of the inmates who are housed in that type of area are there because they felt threatened by other inmates in another area with more inmates or because of discipline problems, Benton said. An initial investigation indicates that jail employees followed regulations regarding monitoring of inmates in that area, she said. It appears that the employees "did what they were supposed to be doing," she said. She did not elaborate on why Wilkie was in that area. However, Benton said, that inmates who tell someone else they are going to kill themselves or express that in some other way are placed in an area where they are monitored constantly. "That wasn't the case here," she said. Apparently, while Wilkie may not have appeared suicidal near the time of his death, he had attempted to commit suicide years ago. Wilkie attempted to commit suicide in Vero Beach in 2006, but a girlfriend saved him, he told Highlands Today in a 2010 interview. He said that he attempted to drown himself when the girlfriend told him she was leaving him, but said she pulled him out of the Atlantic Ocean and they continued on a drug binge together. Benton recalled that decades ago she knew him when she worked as a middle school resource deputy. She said Wilkie was a "troubled child," and that he had "a difficult time growing up," but declined to elaborate further on his problems. She said she and another school resource deputy, who is now retired, tried to help Wilkie. But, apparently that help didn't succeed, as during the ensuing years, Wilkie was in trouble with the law on numerous occasions. At the time of his death, Wilkie was in jail on charges that included one count each of sexual battery and lewd/lascivious molestation and four counts of lewd/lascivious exhibition. Those charges stemmed from an arrest in December 2012. He also was charged with failure to appear after not attending a March court hearing. An arrest report accused Wilkie of sexually abuse and inappropriate behavior with a 13-year-old juvenile. His previous record includes being incarcerated in prison from July 8, 1997, to Oct. 11, 2001, on charges of robbery without a deadly weapon, two counts and carjacking without a deadly weapon, two counts. From Oct. 22, 2002, to Jan. 27, 2004, he was in prison for high-speed fleeing and possession of methamphetamine, according to the Florida Department of Corrections web site. His latest stint was from Dec. 3, 2008, to Feb. 19, 2009, for possession of methamphetamine. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834