After an inmate’s death at the Lansing Correctional Facility in March, a federal investigation was opened.
Fifty-six-year-old James Beeson, incarcerated for sodomy and other crimes against a child under 14 years old, died March 26 under circumstances that were “out of the ordinary,” according to Samir Arif, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections.
An email sent to The Star from Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson revealed the U.S. Attorney’s Office was investigating the inmate’s death.
In response to a query about Beeson’s death from The Star, Thompson wrote by email that “the case is at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.” Thompson said he learned about the federal investigation from an independent investigator on the case, Ron Erwin.
Jim Cross, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney of Kansas, said he could neither confirm nor deny a federal investigation in connection to Beeson’s death.
Beeson’s death was first reported by WIBW in late March. The Hays Post also reported it.
Todd Fertig, a spokesman for KDOC, said only media outlets that inquired about the death were provided a response. KDOC did not issue a news release to other outlets, he added.
Arif said that, in general, the public and media are notified in the event of an inmate’s death, but he was unsure why Beeson’s death did not warrant a press release.
An autopsy is being conducted by the Leavenworth County Coroner’s Office, an employee with the office said. The case is currently suppressed, she added, which typically means a death is being investigated.
Thompson, the Leavenworth prosecutor, said two inmate deaths at Lansing have been reported to his office this year: Lloyd Adams, who died of suicide, and Wendall McKenzie, who died of natural causes. Adams died in October, McKenzie in March. Foul play is not suspected in either death, Thompson added.
McKenzie was 60 and had a history of health problems. Adams was 43.
The federal investigation into Beeson’s death comes amid multiple instances of violent disturbances and staffing shortages at Lansing and other Kansas prisons, though it remains unclear if Beeson’s death was accidental or the result of malice.