Sex, Drugs & Intimidation Lead to Trouble for 4 County Employees
By Carlos Padilla
Four employees of the Sierra County Detention Facility have found themselves on the other side of the law and are facing a total of 36 criminal charges following an ongoing investigation into the troubled local jail.
This latest investigation began two months ago, on June 24, when law enforcement officials learned of allegations of sexual misconduct at the facility.
The Herald was contacted in late June by a former inmate of and a guard still employed at the jail regarding these allegations. This newspaper opted to hold off on reporting on these allegations at that time to allow detectives the full opportunity to build their respective cases against the accused county employees.
The charges announced last week are the latest in a string of complaints leveled against employees of the local jail on an array of accusations, and highlight deep-seeded issues at the facility that include a lawsuit filed several weeks ago alleging mistreatment of inmates.
Virgil Eaton, 38, and of the 1400-block of South Copper Street in Truth or Consequences, was the first to be taken into custody. Eaton was arrested minutes before a press conference was held at the Truth or Consequences Police Department on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 27, by Chief Priscilla Mullins and Detective James Harrington. Eaton was reportedly taken into custody without incident and transported to the very facility where he has been employed for several years – the local jail.
Eaton, who reached the rank of sergeant at the facility, has been charged with eight criminal counts, including one count of second-degree criminal sexual penetration, third-degree attempted criminal sexual penetration, third-degree intimidation of a witness, four counts of battery, and criminal sexual contact.
Sierra County Commission Vice Chair Frances Luna, representing the Sierra County Sentinel, stated on Wednesday that Eaton’s incarceration would create some issues for the county and the jail, as Sgt. Eaton’s safety would be at issue as well as the fact that one of the witnesses for the prosecution is still a county jail employee.
At issue, there really is nowhere to house Eaton or any of the other county jail employees, as any facility under contract with the County in regard to housing inmates would include inmates from Sierra County, and the identities of guards would quickly be discovered.
On the following day, two more former county jail employees were taken into custody. The Herald is not disclosing their locations, as it is not readily available to the public through typical online searches, and serves in the interest of their personal safety.
Joshua Corley, 22, of Williamsburg, was taken into custody on Thursday, Aug. 28. Corley is – by far – facing the most criminal charges (21) of the four being investigated, including two counts of second-degree criminal sexual penetration, a fourth-degree count of bringing contraband into a place of imprisonment, 16 counts of criminal sexual contact, indecent exposure and battery.
At the time that law enforcement officials issued a warrant for his arrest, Corley was reportedly serving in the National Guard, and – according to Detective Harrington – “could be anywhere in the country.” The nationwide warrant apparently found him in less than 24 hours.
As reported in a web exclusive posted Wednesday afternoon at www.theheraldtorc.com, 21-year-old Miguel Herrera of Hatch was also being sought in a nationwide arrest warrant. Herrera was also taken into custody within 24 hours. Herrera has been charged with five counts of criminal sexual penetration while he was a guard at the Sierra County Detention Facility.
Herrera admitted to detectives that he “messed up” and was guilty of engaging in sexual acts with a number of female inmates.
The fourth suspect, 19-year-old Kennedy Griffis, is apparently still at large. Ms. Griffis reportedly had left the local area for Alamogordo late last week. She is charged with two second-degree counts of trafficking a controlled substance into the jail.
Griffis was a cook supervisor at the facility when she reportedly provided oxycodone to inmates.
Over the course of the two-month investigation, detectives interviewed more than two dozen people, including six identified as victims, five identified as suspects, and three witnesses. The victims and witnesses, in the interest of ensuring their safety and privacy, are not being identified at this time by The Herald.
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