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Former corrections officers appear in court Monday after being charged with inmate death


Former Jefferson City Correctional officers appeared in Cole County Court on Monday after being charged in the death of an inmate.

Cole County Prosecuting Attorney Locke Thompson unveiled the charges last week against Justin M. Leggins, Jacob A. Case, Aaron C. Brown, Gregory H. Varner and Bryanne M. Bradshaw.

Four are charged with being an accessory to second-degree assault and second-degree murder. Bradshaw is charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Thompson said Monday that Leggins, Case and Brown were arraigned and will have another court appearance on July 8.

Varner is being held in Audrain County and will be on the jail docket on Wednesday.

Bradshaw bonded out on a $50,000 cash or surety bond and will return to court on July 30.

Meanwhile, executive director of Missouri Prison Reform Lori Curry said she is relieved that former corrections officers are being charged in the December death of Othel Moore.

"We're glad to see some accountability in this situation," Curry said. "We're really hopeful that this is indicative of accountability in the future, also."

Moore died in December at the Jefferson City Correctional Center. A probable cause statement said his cause of death was suffocation. It said he died from choking on contents from his stomach after being put in a restraint.

Data provided by Missouri Prison Reform showed there were almost 140 people that died in the Missouri Department of Corrections in 2023.

  • 2024 through May 31: 66
  • 2023: 137
  • 2022: 136
  • 2021: 102
  • 2020: 54
  • 2019: 87

Causes of these deaths can include natural, homicide, accidental, executive, suicide and unknown.

Moore's death at JCCC in December is listed as "Death-Unknown Causes-Instit." He is one of 43 inmates listed with this cause of death in 2023.

"Things like this happen frequently," Curry said. "Not necessarily resulting in a death, but there is a lot of violence that goes on."

The Missouri Department of Corrections said in a statement that it has discontinued the use of the restraint Moore was put in before he died. The department also says it "has begun" implementing body-worn cameras in some areas of maximum security facilities, starting with Jefferson City Correctional Center in May.

A spokesperson said in response to questions from ABC 17 News that the cameras are being worn by guards in Jefferson City Correctional Center after a trial and will now be implemented in other prisons.

"We take seriously our responsibility for creating the safest environment possible and will not tolerate behaviors or conditions that endanger the wellbeing of Missourians working or living in our facilities," the Department of Corrections statement said.

However, Curry said she doesn't think this will be enough.

"I don't have much faith in the body cameras and here is why: we already have cameras in the facilities," Curry said.

Instead, Curry said she would like to see the MoDOC disband its Emergency Response Team.

She said Missouri Prison Reform is working on legislation to create independent prison oversight that would be given access to facilities, camera footage and prisoner complaint forms.

The committee would also have access to the DOC's healthcare details. Curry said declining healthcare in prisons is a large reason she believes numbers of inmate deaths have been increasing.

"I think there's a tendency to not believe people who are in prison, so I hope that this is a situation where we can show that people in prison are telling the truth about situations like this," Curry said.

The Missouri Justice Coalition has said Moore was excessively pepper sprayed by the JCCC Emergency Response Team before his head was covered with a hood, his body was wrapped and he was strapped to a restraint cart. The coalition said Moore was then taken to a dry cell in Housing Unit 8.

The charges allege Moore wasn't given medical attention in that unit, where Bradshaw was in charge.

Moore was serving a 30-year sentence for domestic assault, drug possession, robbery, armed criminal action and violence to a prison inmate or employee.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

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Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


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