Four Muskegon County deputies and one former Wellspath nurse have been charged with involuntary manslaughter Thursday over the death of a man in jail.
In March 2019, 39-year-old Paul Bulthouse was held at Muskegon County Jail on a probation detainer. He was classified as suicidal, which required him to be monitored every fifteen minutes. This also meant his cell was close to the booking center and was always visible on video monitors.
Bulthouse died 13 days later after suffering 22 seizures in five and a half hours, according to a release from Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Nessel and her office reviewed hours of footage and documentation throughout their investigation and concluded Bulthouse died of gross neglect and “due to complete disregard for human life by five individuals who were within feet of him but never acted to assist him.”
Nessel said in a video presentation there was evidence the five individuals were aware of the seizure activity but did not treat them.
The following five have been charged with “one count each of Involuntary Manslaughter – Failure to Perform a Legal Duty, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, for their willful neglect of duty in caring for Mr. Bulthouse”:
- Deputy Sgt. David Vanderlaan
- Deputy Jeffrey Patterson
- Deputy Crystal Greve
- Deputy Jamal Lane
- Former Wellpath Registered Nurse Aubrey Schotts
“We know that the defendants were in the position to observe both on camera and in person, Mr. Bluthouse's seizures. And yet, they simply failed to assist him or care for him,” she said.
The five individuals were arranged in the 60th District Court in Muskegon before Judge Harold Closz and released on personal bond. The probable cause conference is scheduled for April 15th. The preliminary examination is on April 22nd.
The staff members have been temporarily reassigned from direct inmate supervision until court proceedings can be conducted, according to the Muskegon County Jail.
Sheriff Michael Poulin said after the incident, the Michigan Sheriff’s Association Mission Team conducted an independent investigation and concluded the staff acted "appropriately in providing care and the performance of cell checks.”
He said the requested information was turned over to the local prosecutor, who then asked for an investigation by the state Attorney General’s office.
Poulin said his office had fully cooperated with multiple investigators and agencies.
“From the beginning, my office has been committed to getting to the truth of the events surrounding this incident and that all the facts are clearly documented,” he said in a release.
Bluthouse’s family has filed a federal lawsuit over his death.
Nessel also investigated the death of a man in Lansing Police Department’s custody, who was handcuffed and pinned to the ground moments before he died.
Nessel said there was insufficient evidence to justify criminal charges against the department. A video of Nessel’s dissection of the case can be found on Youtube.
54-year-old Anthony Hulon died at the city jail last April after four officers handcuffed and pinned him to the ground.
An Ingham County medical examiner ruled Hulon's cause of death as positional asphyxia and his manner of death as a homicide.
In a video released Friday, Attorney General Dana Nessel says her office did not find any evidence the officers involved intentionally acted in any way to contribute to Hulon’s death.
“Video evidence shows Lansing police officers followed protocol, acted professionally and treated Mr. Hulon with dignity and respect throughout the time he was in custody,” she said.
Nessel’s office found Hulon had taken drugs that affected his behavior and that the officers had followed protocol at the time.
The four officers involved in the case and the city are facing a wrongful death lawsuit from Hulon’s family.
His sister, Heather Hulon, says she’s frustrated the AG’s office has absolved the officers from any wrongdoing.
“It's frustrating that she's painting him out to be something that he clearly isn't,” she said. “Yes, he was on drugs, we knew that he admitted that. He even told them, you know, that he felt it was laced with something because he'd never had that reaction, that type of reaction before.”