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NEWS ALERT – CCSO Investigates Female Inmate’s Allegations Against Officer

BY KELLI PEACOCK DUNN News Editor

Terry
Dunn

An internal investigation by the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office has been closed after no evidence was found to support allegations from a female inmate who claims she was touched inappropriately by an officer. Melissa Terry, who was arrested on meth charges Dec. 5, alleged Dep. Jason Dunn, a booking officer at the Calhoun County Jail, touched her inappropriately during a visit to the bathroom. According to the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, Melissa Terry arrived at the jail the afternoon in question with a small puppy stuffed in her shirt. Authorities had her secured on a bench while waiting for her relatives to retrieve the dog. During the evening, she slept on and off on the bench and asked to go to the bathroom at least twice. It was during one of the visits to the restroom that she alleges Dep. Dunn touched her inappropriately. However, a cellmate of Terry’s told authorities Terry intended to use her allegations against Dunn to her advantage to mitigate her criminal charges. According to Dep. Dunn’s statement, while he was interviewing Terry the evening she arrived at the jail, she told him she had multiple personalities and suffered from seizures, but had not taken her prescribed medication. When she asked if she could use the restroom, Dep. Dunn reported, “I directed Ms. Terry to the officer’s restroom. It is customary for female inmates to use the officer’s restroom in order to keep them separated from the male population. Because this restroom is accessible through the medical room, I stood by, guarding the sensitive contents of the medical area and waiting for her to exit. This is the method I follow each and every time a female inmate requests to use the restroom. Before Ms. Terry entered the restroom, I took possession of the puppy. It should be noted that Ms. Terry neglected to shut the door completely before she began to use the restroom (the door was open about 4 to 5 inches) so I pushed it closed. I reminded her to exit the same door she entered and not to exit the restroom via the metal door into the officer’s station. As I always do, I remained close to the door so that I can hear if an inmate attempts to exit the restroom through the officer station door, as that door is not able to be secured from the inside.” While waiting on Terry to finish in the restroom, Dep. Dunn said he became concerned since she was taking a long time and had been sleeping so much since she arrived. “I knocked and asked her if everything was okay, believing she may have fallen asleep on the toilet. She responded that, yes, she was okay. A few minutes later, she eventually exited the restroom. She appeared very teary eyed and stated she felt she may have a seizure. She then dropped into the chair that sits next to the nurse’s desk in the medical room. Terry appeared pale and was sobbing at this point. She then said she just needed to ‘end it all’ and be done with it. Bearing in mind a recent event that occurred in the jail when a female inmate overdosed on medication she had on her person, and realizing that Ms. Terry had been prescribed a barbiturate, I inquired if she had anything on her person that I needed to know about to include medication. She stood up and yelled, ‘No!’ She then pulled her pants down approximately 8 to 10 inches revealing her underwear and I immediately yelled, ‘Stop!’ She then pulled her shirt up exposing her bra and I yelled, ‘Damn it, stop!’” Dep. Dunn said he ordered Terry out of the medical room, but she would not leave. “She then leaned back on the exam table and continued crying and sobbing,” he reported. “She stated she wanted to help herself and asked me if there was anything she could do. She put particular emphasis on the word ‘anything.’ In order to clarify this was not a bribe, I asked, ‘Exactly what do you mean by that?’ She responded that she had information that would be beneficial to law enforcement and that she wished to speak to a deputy about specific knowledge she had about the manufacture and sale of methamphetamine. She stated she was not involved with cooking and she merely acted as a ‘lookout,’ adding she was ‘not going down for this.’ I told her I would relay her request to Patrol Sergeant Jared Nichols. I returned her dog to her and again ordered her back to the bench where she eventually lay down and fell back asleep.” Dep. Dunn went to deal with the aftermath of a fight between two male inmates, then reported the fight, as well as Terry’s behavior in the bathroom, to his immediate supervisor. He was told to write a report on the matter, but failed to do so. Later in the evening before being transported, Terry reportedly told Dep. Dunn she had previously been “molested” by three different law enforcement officers from different agencies. Dep. Dunn responded, “I assure you, not all cops are like that,” then attempted to steer the conversation back to the booking process. Terry left for an interview with Sgt. Nichols, then returned to be fingerprinted. Dep. Dunn noted in his report, “Ms. Terry was notably more alert upon returning from the interview with Sgt. Nichols, to include smiling and joking, much different than her original demeanor. I remarked to her that she seemed more alert. She replied it was ‘just one of her other three personalities that was coming out.’ I then began the fingerprinting process and Ms. Terry was complaining of splinters in her hands. As her fingers appeared on the screen, she was remarking how ‘neat’ it was and commenting on scars she had never noticed before. She asked if she could roll her own fingers across the fingerprint machine since she had several splinters in her hand. I allowed her to do so.” In a videotape during the fingerprinting process, Terry can be seen laying her head on Dunn’s shoulder and patting him on the back. When Dep. Dunn directed her back to the bench to wait for transport to the Liberty County Jail where female inmates are housed, Terry’s demeanor changed once again. “As we exited the officer station and entered the medical room, she immediately sat down in the same chair as she had earlier,” Dunn reported. “I ordered her to get up and she said she was ‘feeling another seizure coming on.’ She didn’t have a seizure before, but this is what she stated. Although she still looked a little pale, she did not appear to be having a seizure. I did ask if she wanted an ambulance and she said, ‘No.’ Because she was pale and said she felt faint, I retrieved a blood pressure cuff from the medical drawer and took her blood pressure…I remarked to Ms. Terry her blood pressure was a little low, but not alarmingly so. I then told Ms. Terry to get up, that was all I could medically do for her, but I would call an ambulance if she needed one. She again declined an ambulance and I directed her back to the bench.” Dep. Dunn said all appeared well as Terry prepared to leave. “As she was exiting the medical room, she extended her hand and stated I had ‘renewed her faith in law enforcement’ and we were ‘not all animals.’” Three days later, Terry wrote a note to a jailer in Liberty County where she was housed, making the allegations against Dunn. Captain Michael Bryant and Major Roman Wood arrived to interview her and learned she had just tried to hang herself with two shoelaces. While questioning Terry, she attempted to pull up her shirt in front of Inv. Bryant and Maj. Wood to demonstrate what she alleged happened on Dec. 5 and was ordered by them to stop. Voice stress analysis was done on Terry and Dunn. Results were inconclusive on both parties, with no deception on one test, then deception when asked the same questions again. The fact that Dunn was nervous as he was preparing to give a 12 minute speech before 150 people at a law enforcement graduation a few hours later was taken into account, as were Terry’s mental issues. Results from voice stress tests are inadmissible in court due to such discrepancies. Video cameras are not placed in the restrooms at the jail for obvious reasons, nor are they allowed in the medical room due to legal requirements for patient privacy. Thus, there was no video evidence to support or dispel Terry’s claims. Three other law enforcement agencies were contacted in response to Terry’s allegations against other officers in the past “molesting” her. None of the agencies had any complaints on file from her and there was no evidence to back up her claims. Since Terry’s allegations against Dunn, another jail employee filed a report regarding inappropriate flirtatious comments Terry made to him when she was being prepared for transport to a recent appointment. Terry remains in custody in the Liberty County Jail. The case against Dunn has been closed as no evidence was found to support Terry’s allegations. Dunn resigned from the Sheriff’s Office effective Jan. 7 to pursue another career opportunity. “I have the utmost respect for the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office for the way this investigation was handled,” Dunn remarks. “Never let it be said this agency doesn’t investigate their own. I was treated no different than anyone off the street. After spending the past year working days and going to school at night to graduate from law enforcement academy, this was a horrible allegation to face the very week I was graduating and preparing for my state exam. I just pray Ms. Terry gets the help she needs and this never happens again to any other officer.” NOTE FROM NEWS EDITOR: One of the subjects in this article is my husband. This is an example of The County Record’s commitment to cover ALL news, even if our own family members are involved. We appreciate our readers and never want our credibility to come into question.

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