MetroNews staff photo

BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. — An indictment unsealed late Friday in Cabell County alleges four inmates and four correctional officers at the Western Regional Jail in Barboursville conspired to kill another inmate. The charges are connected to an attempted murder from last October.

The four correctional officers have already been fired–the four inmates moved to other jails.

State Regional Jail Authority Director Joe DeLong told the Huntington Herald Dispatch the plot was uncovered by the authority’s internal investigators.

“All correctional officers are held to a very high standard,” DeLong told the newspaper. “When I believe people have committed acts within our facilities that are improper or illegal, I’m not going to terminate those people and move on. We are going to work to prosecute people who commit criminal activity within our facilities, whether those people are current inmates or members of our staff.”

The alleged target was inmate Zachary Lawson, 19, who has been in jail in connection with alleged sex crimes. He’s scheduled to go on trial in August in Mason County. The indictment doesn’t give details on why Lawson was targeted or what exactly happened to him.

The inmates indicted include Steven Adkins, Jr., James Galloway, James Kenney and Jared Harris. They are charged with attempted murder and conspiracy.

The now former correctional officers indicted are Steven Adkins of Milton, Benjamin Browning of Kermit, John Bruhin of Huntington and Jeffrey Winkler of Chesapeake, Ohio. Adkins is charged with being an accessory before the fact of first-degree murder. The others are charged with aiding and abetting attempted murder.

Arraignments will now be scheduled in circuit court in connection with the four-count indictment.


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  • man from ky

    I think that no matter what an inmate is incarcerated for all inmates should be treated fairly.what gives guards the right to treat others different.

  • What

    The cos are the unlucky ones they work under staffed and one thing happens that The inmates do and they get made out to be criminals and scum so the people in charleston can look good sitting behind there desk and they are under payed I will say all jails are dangerous don't matter what state it is there might not be cartel but it's full of murders and drug dealersfrom Detroit and huntington 10 an hour isn't enough in any jail or prison there family and friends get threatened they never put in the paper or on the news when a co gets assaulted or injured by an inmate just when somthing happens an a inmate threatens to sue so the people sitting behind the desk puts the officers name out there to save them a little money

  • Sandy

    It does not matter the pay the correction officers receive, they agreed to the pay when hired. What is inreprensible is the very person put in charge of protection are corrupt. Whatever a person is charged with, they do not need to be beaten up by correction officers, police officers, or other inmates. Correction officers and police officers should be held to a higher standard.

  • Little Red Hen

    While I don't know exactly what transpired and don't agree with killing another human being, I've got to say our jail system is corrupt and pro-inmate. Our state needs to look at paying our correctional officers comparable wages to other states. Being able to make ends meet makes a more honest person. (At least for the ones who are trying to make a living or support a family and would otherwise be honest) Formerly working in a prison, I can see why a correctional officer would be tempted to make "supplementary income" by selling drugs within a prison. The going rate for these items in a prison could easily pay the ever-rising cost of utilities and put food on the table for their children. While it is not right or honorable, you must question what you would do if you were living paycheck to paycheck unable to feed your family on your wages in our over-inflated economy. While I'm sure this was not the case in this instance, the commentary on this article sparked a fire in me. Correctional officers in California get paid, bare minimum $27,000 a year starting off. Our correctional officers: $18,000. While our state cannot go broke paying everyone, surely someone who risks their life day in and day out should get paid more than $8-$10 a day. The second issue here is that prison/jail is often seen as cushy or no punishment at all for violent criminals. If you were to look through the eyes of a parent of a child who had been raped or molested and saw the perpetrator got to play video games everyday and have social time and free medical care, you would feel the system has let us down as well and feel outraged. Also, inmates are very well protected by PREA regulations and are often very litigious, making it hard to even correctly perform your job. (Did I mention most of these guys don't carry guns, only pepper spray?)

    • Jason412

      California C.O's should be paid far better than WV C.O.'s. California prisons are far more dangerous, far more populated, and filled with a lot more dangerous inmates than WV.

      WV doesn't have 5 or 6 different race gangs, the Mexican cartel that order their minions to follow C.O'.s home and threaten their families, inner city gang bangers from metro areas like LA, or anything else a California C.O. has to deal with.

      I don't say that to be disrespectful or to undermine the job, as I have family who are C.O.'s, I just don't see the comparison with the CA correctional system.

      • wvtruth

        Maybe you should wake up and check your gang statistics and see what gangs are active in the WV area since parts of WV are considered suburbs of DC. Also check and see what gangs operate in Charleston, Huntington, Parkersburg, Morgantown and so on. This is not the WV of old. If thats the way you think... it's time to wake up from your dream world. WV has real and very serious gangs in it's prison system. Just because you work in a prison in another state doesn't make your job any less dangerous. An inmate is an inmate no matter what state they are in and can be just as dangerous at any time. These officers and staff members are the people that keep you safe at night that no one ever blinks an eye over or cares about the job they perform. To say that they don't deal with gang activity or dangerous people on a daily basis is a slap in the face to all of these hard working underpaid individuals.

  • Leroy J Gibbs

    I wouldn't want to be a prison guard. Low pay. Working rules that favor the inmates. Hands are legally tied.I couldn't do it

  • mook

    If jail guards are held to higher standards how are all the drugs getting in to the jail? Had freind in jail,says drugs, guards no pat down of guards coming into work! Da ya think !

    • DWL

      Supplemental income.

  • DWL

    Inmate Steven Adkins, Jr is charged with attempted murder and conspiracy & former correctional officers Steven Adkins is charged with being an accessory before the fact. That's a very interesting set of names. Are they related? Father & son maybe? I do believe. Amazing how no one picked up on that little tidbit.

    • dumbwittedlump

      Inmate Steven Adkins, Jr. is from the Adkins's from Apple Grove, WV. No relation to other Adkins. Matter of fact, i know his dad in Apple Grove and he's not a corrections officer. There is another Adkins corrections officer that works there too, maybe that's his grandma. There's a little tidbit to pick up on.

      • DWL

        Must be the family name. Trash is as trash does. How's that tidbit lump?

  • Tyrone

    And they say that they are going to eliminate contact from visitors.They said that a baby had drugs in its diaper and they wanted to stop drugs from getting in the jails.. When we all know that it is the people who are working there as correctional officers are the ones who bring most of the dope into the jails it is a big profit for them i would imagine. This was in another story i read somewhere.

  • Who?

    If the internal affair investigators are the same ones that supervised the grenades and shooting at Western Regional Jail last week, then there may be creditability/integrity issues with their investigative procedures.

    • JR

      I am sure there are rare instances where people 'in positions of power' will take advantage of less fortunate people (like, now), no matter what the business is. However, I personally know one of the officers named here...and he wouldn't hurt anybody, nor intentionally be 'involved' with anything inappropriate....I don't know the others. He is a hard worker, has a kind heart, and is a good father. He was working at the jail to gain experience in the 'criminal justice' systems because he wanted to be a police officer some day, and, of course, to earn a meager living to care for his children. He worked long hours, taking overtime nearly every day. He was dedicated to his job and his family. He is ALWAYS concerned about doing the right thing. Now, Big Brother, worried about being sued, is hanging these corrections officers out to dry to take the 'liability' off themselves. Really typical of West Virginia politicians....sacrifice and ruin the lives of these four officers, not only indicting them, but posting their names in the an attempt to avoid a civil suit....makes me sick.... Maybe the bigger problem is suit at the top, DeLong, doing whatever he can to take the spotlight off of his "jail system"???...a political hack that was in the House... couldn't hang in a primary bid for Secretary of State...and is a buddy of the Governor???...Who is doing, not what is best for the prisoner or the 4 officers, but, what is BEST for his POLITICAL FUTURE??? There is no due process in the Regional Jail Authority, nor is there any dedication to their employees. Investigators blaming employees instead of investigating....forming opinions BEFORE knowing the facts...and 'conducting investigations' based on what they 'think' happened instead of what really happened....kind of skews the results, don't you think??? Piss poor technique, if you ask me. If you are considering a career there....STAY AWAY !!!!!. If these officers are smart....they will blow open this can of worms....and expose the Authority for what it is... Maybe there is something bigger going on to cover up?

  • Richard

    This is what happens when all you want to pay is 10.00$ per hour for correction officers The state of WV is it's own worst enemy.

    • Pudge

      It seems some of the people employed there should be inmates there no matter the hourly rate.

  • Mason County Contrarian

    Good help is hard to find--even in prison.