7 Virginia deputies charged in death of patient at mental hospital ‘smothered’ him in custody, prosecutor says

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DINWIDDIE, Va. —Seven Virginia sheriff’s deputies who were charged with second-degree murder in the death of a patient at a state mental hospital “smothered” the patient and waited three hours to report his death, a local prosecutor revealed on Wednesday.

Irvo Otieno, 28, died shortly after being admitted to Central State Hospital in suburban Petersburg on March 6. Video footage from the hospital’s patient intake area shows the deputies throwing a handcuffed Otieno face down to the floor and lying across him to restrain him, and “smothered him to death” according to Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell, who described the video at a hearing on Wednesday.  

The entire episode lasted about 12 minutes, and while the video was not shown in court, Baskervill called it “disturbing” and proof of unnecessary cruelty against the victim. After viewing the hospital footage, Baskervill said she immediately sought the deputies’ arrest. 

Each of the deputies face one charge of second-degree murder in the death of Otieno, who reportedly became violent while being admitted to the hospital and was restrained by the Henrico deputies who brought him to the hospital.

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2 deputies granted bond

All the deputies were previously held without bond after turning themselves in on Tuesday, but two of them were granted bond during Wednesday’s court hearing. Baskervill objected to the granting of bonds for the two.

A Dinwiddie Circuit Court judge set bonds of $15,000 for Jermaine Lavar Branch, 45, and $10,000 for Bradley Thomas Disse, 43, during their first appearance in court Wednesday morning. If they post bond, Branch and Disse would be released under an order not to have any contact with anyone involved in the case. 

The other five deputies — Randy Joseph Boyer, 57; Dwayne Alan Bramble, 37; Tabitha Rene Levere, 50; Brandon Edward Rodgers, 48; and Kalyell Dajour Sanders, 30, remain in custody and are being held at regional jails.

A Dinwiddie grand jury is set to meet March 21 to determine if the deputies should be indicted. A second-degree murder conviction carries a maximum 40-year prison sentence in Virginia.

Henrico Sheriff Alisa Gregory told The Progress-Index, part of the USA TODAY Network, that all seven deputies are on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the cases.

Prosecutor: Otieno’s cause of death was asphyxiation

A preliminary cause of death, according to the prosecutor, was asphyxiation. The state medical examiner also preliminarily ruled the manner of death as a homicide.

Baskervill said Virginia State Police, the lead investigators in the case, were not notified of Otieno’s death until more than three hours after the incident took place.

Otieno, a native of Kenya who lived in Henrico, reportedly experienced mental health issues and was a suspect in a Henrico burglary three days beforehis death.

Mark Krudys, an attorney representing the victim’s family, said Otieno’s family is “grief-stricken” after learning of the “brutal nature” of his death. 

“The public, and experienced mental health professionals alike, will be appalled when the facts of this case are fully disclosed,” Krudys said.

Otieno was a deeply loved and well-regarded young man, an aspiring musician who had been a well-known high school athlete in the area, Krudys said.