Thursday, May 29, 2003

Inmate's guards may cost $300K


24-hour watches drain county's OT

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEBANON - An inmate who allegedly killed his wife then tried to commit suicide could cost the county up to $300,000 for 24-hour guards while he recuperates from reconstructive surgery at a Cincinnati nursing home, county officials said.

Sheriff Tom Ariss has warned county commissioners that he might run out of money in his overtime budget because of it. He said he's already spent $100,000 to post deputies around the clock since January in Rocky Barton's room.

"He's spent 68 percent of his overtime," County Commissioner Mike Kilburn said. He questioned why the sheriff has to spend so much money on a man who could be headed to death row and why Barton can't be held in jail instead of a private room at Dual Manor in Avondale.

"We could send a whole bunch of high school seniors to Harvard University for their degrees. This could go on for two years," Kilburn said of the ultimate cost of Barton's security.

Barton, who was released from a Kentucky prison in February 2002 for the attempted murder of a girlfriend, goes on trial Sept. 22 on charges of aggravated murder and a weapons violation in the Jan. 16 shotgun slaying of his wife, Kimberli Jo, in Wayne Township.

Barton, 46, was seriously injured when he shot himself under the chin. His face has been reconstructed, but he still requires at least two more surgeries.

Ariss argued that the overtime costs are cheaper than keeping Barton at the jail because Medicaid is paying for his care at the nursing home. If he is sent back to the jail, Ariss said, the county would have to assume the cost of future surgeries and hospitalizations.

"If he's in our jail, he is ours," Ariss said.

In addition, he said that Barton requires close medical attention that isn't available in the jail because his jaw is wired shut and he has a tracheotomy.

E-mail smclaughlin@enquirer.com




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