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WICC correctional officers indicted for inmate death

MT. STERLING, Il (WGEM) — Three correctional officers from the Western Illinois Correctional Center (WICC) in Mt. Sterling, Illinois, were indicted Friday morning in federal court on charges related to the death of an inmate in June.

According to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Todd Sheffler, 51 of Mendon, Willie Hedden, 41 of Mt. Sterling and Alex Banta, 28 of Quincy allegedly assaulted an inmate on May 17, 2018.

The inmate is reported to have been restrained and handcuffed behind his back while being escorted to another prison unit.

The victim, 65-year-old Larry Earvin, suffered multiple broken ribs, a punctured colon, and other serious internal injuries. Earvin died in June.

According to the release, the indictment alleges that each defendant falsified incident reports omitting any reference to the assault and that they misled agents of the Illinois State Police by denying any knowledge of the assault of Earvin that each participated in and witnessed.

The release states the defendants were arrested December 5th by the FBI and Illinois State Police and appeared today for arraignment in federal court in before U.S. District Judge Sue E. Myerscough.

Sheffler was a lieutenant, Hedden was a sergeant, and, Banta was a correctional officer, subordinate to Sheffler and Hedden at WICC at the time of the alleged crimes.

Earvin would have been eligible for parole in September of 2018.

According to the release, the indictment charges Sheffler, Hedden, and Banta with conspiracy to deprive civil rights; deprivation of civil rights; and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Each defendant is charged individually with obstruction of the investigation: falsification of document and misleading conduct. In addition, Hedden is charged with destruction of a record or other object.

An initial trial date of Feb. 4, 2020, has been scheduled.

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Mark Schneider

Assignment Editor

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