PORTSMOUTH — Last week’s arraignment of a former Scioto County Sheriff’s corrections officer initiated the court proceedings of the alleged 2020 murder of one county jail inmate. It is also the beginning of what one area woman hopes to be justice.
Since June, Karen Skaggs has been asking why, how, and who caused her brother to die following the May 26 altercation. Now with charges read and a not guilty plea from defendant Billy Thompson, answers could become a possibility.
“I feel like there’s finally being some justice brought forward,” she said in a Thursday interview. The charges of murder, voluntary manslaughter, and reckless homicide were pleasing to her, but not the fact that Thompson could sign-on to his own bond set at $100,000. “Overall, I am very happy that charges were brought, and somebody is being held accountable for this.”
The account from now-retired Chief Deputy Todd Miller, shared with the Daily Times in a June 4 article, remains a contested matter for Skaggs.
According to Miller, Bailey fled from officers while being escorted back to his pod from medical treatment. He became combative with the officers and hit his head on an open door during the tussle. The word Skaggs used to describe the incident which led to his June 1 death at a Columbus hospital is a “beating.”
Not satisfied with this explanation, she led a march from Tracy Park to the Sheriff’s Office on June 11 with a group of protesters. It is part of what has been a nearly yearlong effort and a very stressful one at that for Skaggs.
“I think they thought if I would just go away, then all this would go away,” she said, discouraged at first when no answers came out of the protest. “If I hadn’t pursued it and kept after them, he (Thompson) would have gotten away with it.”
Thompson maintained his innocence on April 20, where his attorney, Cincinnati-based Stew Mathews, referred to his client as a family man and in cooperation will all that had been asked of him so far.
“He has absolutely no prior criminal record of any kind and I would like to see the court set a very reasonable bond,” the defense said at the arraignment held at the Scioto County Court of Common Pleas. Ultimately, Judge Howard Harcha granted the bond but ordered Thompson to wear an ankle bracelet and to be under a curfew.
Skaggs recognized that the challenges extend to both sides in this case, where Thompson is not allowed to contact any of Bailey’s relatives or any potential witnesses.
“It’s heartbreaking for both families,” she said, Thompson, having a wife and three young children. “It’s not only ruined our family but there’s a potential it could ruin his family too. He could be taken away from his kids and I’m sorry for that, but he needs to pay for what he did.”
Dealing with these challenges as the sole, full-blood relative has created bouts of anxiety and utter sadness for Skaggs, feelings she deals with on a daily basis. Fortunately, she said people like her half brother, Mike Bailey and his wife Jennifer and her boyfriend Rodney Isaac have been in her corner.
Another woman, Elissa Gulker, is one Skaggs calls mom.
“She has been there every day,” she said. “Every time I need to talk to somebody, she’s just my shoulder to lean on, to cry to, to be mad at. She takes whatever and listens to me and she supports me in every way.”
These people and more will be at her side, as Mike and Jennifer Bailey were last week, in future days in court. Skaggs said hearing testimony and potentially watching the video, which shows Bailey “in a wheelchair lifeless,” are not going to be easy for her and will require that continued support.
The man Bailey was she said is complicated, who struggled with addiction for most of his 56 years and had a record before his May 24 arrest for aggravated menacing. Through these challenges, however, Skaggs still said there was a lot of good in her brother.
“Kevin had a very good heart and he would help anybody,” she said, recalling how he would always have her back when they were kids. “He had a very good heart, but he just had a problem.”
The Daily Times reached out to Mathews Friday for comment. He answered by saying “we will respond to the charges in the courtroom.” The next day for that is Thursday, June 3, for the pretrial criminal hearing.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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