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The Suburbanite
  • Jail official: Released prisoners make own decisions

  • Chief Deputy Sheriff Michael McDonald, who oversees the Stark County jail, said Monday the department cannot legally hold someone in jail after they’ve posted their bond. Heather Smith was killed when she was struck by a vehicle while walking along U.S. Route 62 after she was released from the Stark County Jail after 1 a.m. Saturday.

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  • Why did Stark County jail officials release Heather Smith in the middle of the night?
    Several readers of The Repository and CantonRep.com posed the question Monday after hearing the news that Smith, 29, of Uhrichsville, was struck and killed by a vehicle while walking along U.S. Route 62 after she was released from the jail at 1:12 a.m. Saturday.
    “It’s a 24-hour business,” said Chief Deputy Sheriff Michael McDonald, the jail’s administrator, who expressed his condolences to Smith’s family. “We book between 10,000 to 12,000 inmates a year. I cannot hold people in jail after they’ve posted bond ... because we would be housing them illegally.”
    He said deputies give each released inmate an opportunity to make a telephone call to arrange transportation, but he doesn’t have the manpower to ensure that everyone who leaves the jail has a ride.
    “They are adults and they make their own decisions,” said McDonald, who hadn’t seen details of the ongoing police investigation into Smith’s death. “ ... I can’t order them to stay on the property. They can do whatever they want to do. ... It was her decision to walk.”
    McDonald said he believes this is the first time a recently released inmate was struck or killed along the four-lane highway shortly after leaving the jail. Smith’s body was found around 6 a.m. Saturday on the south side of Route 62, just west of Kirby Avenue NE.
    According to Brent Kovacs, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation, it is legal to walk along Route 62.
    Canton police suspect that a vehicle driven by a Nimishillen Township man struck Smith and left the scene. They’ve since impounded the man’s vehicle as evidence, but no charges have been filed. City Prosecutor Ty Hauritz said Monday the case still was under investigation and hadn’t yet been brought to his office.
    Court records show that Canton police had arrested Smith on Friday on a warrant that charged her with felony theft and forgery and a misdemeanor charge of passing bad checks.