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Update: Six charged in Washington County jail inmate's death

Becky Campbell • Updated Jan 11, 2019 at 9:59 PM

Update

The death of a Washington County Detention Center inmate came after a targeted attack, according to information released Friday by the sheriff’s office.

Joseph Lockner, 29, 109 Sheri St. in Gray, was found unresponsive Dec. 17 on the bathroom floor of a minimum security cell block by a detention officer after the officer heard a commotion in the bathroom area.

He found Lockner and called for medical assistance. Lockner was transported to Johnson City Medical Center and was on life support when he died Dec. 20.

Officials said they originally thought Lockner’s collapse was due to a medical issue, but soon came to believe he’d been attacked. Six other inmates were served Thursday with presentments charging them in Lockner’s death. According to a press release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, five of the inmates were in the same cell pod as Lockner, but those five were not identified.

The six charged in Lockner’s assault and death were:

• John Z. Woodard, 23, was charged with reckless homicide, aggravated assault resulting in death and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in death;

• Jonathan R. Pearson, 38, was charged with aggravated assault resulting in death and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in death;

• Wesley E. Clouse, 23, was charged with aggravated assault resulting in death and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in death;

• Cody J. Albu, 23, was charged with aggravated assault resulting in death and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in death;

• Steve Necessary, 43, was charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in death;

• Glendon R. Wilkerson, 40, was charged with accessory after the fact to aggravated assault resulting in death.

Pearson had been released from jail prior to the charges being filed, so he is the only one not in custody at this time. Officers went to Pearson’s home to arrest him, but he, his wife and their child were not home, according to Lt. Doug Gregg.

“We believe he was targeted,” said Chief Deputy Leighta Laitinen about the attack on Lockner, saying that investigators believed there was no intent to kill Lockner, “but regardless, they did.”

Laitinen would not answer questions about why Lockner was targeted, but did confirm it was related to a case in Washington County. Laitinen would not release any information on Lockner’s role in the case that could cause him to be the subject of an organized assault.

At the time of the assault, Lockner was jailed on a violation of probation charge that stemmed from convictions of casual exchange and simple possession.

The inmates charged in Lockner’s death were in jail on a variety of charges, which included:

• Woodard: unlawful possession of a weapon;

• Pearson: violation of probation from convictions of domestic assault, child abuse, simple possession of Schedule II drugs;

• Clouse: violation of probation on an aggravated assault conviction;

• Albu: evading arrest and reckless endangerment;

• Necessary: theft over $10,000, possession of meth, evading arrest, driving while a habitual traffic offender, speeding; and

• Wilkerson: aggravated burglary, possession of meth, theft from a building, unlawful drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance.

“There was one officer in the pod where the assault took place, and he was distracted by inmates at the time,” Laitinen said. “We believe he was intentionally distracted by other inmates.”

The officer “heard (Lockner) hit the ground,” and immediately went to investigate.

“We believe there was a fight in the pod. As a result of that fight, Joseph Lockner was found unresponsive and later died at the hospital,” Laitinen said. She said two of the inmates were physically involved in the assault on Lockner and the others were “accessories.”

“We believe he was targeted,” she said. The investigation is ongoing and could result in additional charges, Laitinen said. She also said any time there is an incident in the jail, the department tries to learn something to keep it from happening again.

“We’ve talked about staffing and we’ve talked about ways we could have prevented this from happening,” she said. “I would love to have more officers,” Laitinen said. “We’re clearly outnumbered. But this is not a pod we’ve had trouble from in the past.”

Laitinen said she and Gregg informed Lockner’s family about the charges before releasing the information.

“My heart and sympathies go out to her for this loss,” she said. “Her son was here serving his time, and this is a tragedy.”

Each of the men charged in Lockner’s attack and death were being held on a $100,000 bond. They will appear in Criminal Court on the charges in the next couple of months. Anyone with information about Pearson’s location is urged to contact their local law enforcement office.

Earlier:

Update: Six men have been charged in the December death of an inmate in the Washington County Detention Center. One of the six faces a reckless homicide charge.

Joseph Lockner, 29, 109 Sheri St. in Gray, was found unresponsive Dec. 17 on the bathroom floor by a detention officer after the officer heard a commotion. He was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center and was on life support when he died Dec. 20.

A new Washington County grand jury was seated Thursday and heard several cases to determine if there was reason enough to indict.

According to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation news release, during the course of the investigation, authorities developed information that the six inmates, five of which were Lockner’s cellmates, conspired to carry out the assault:

— John Z. Woodard, 23, was charged with reckless homicide, aggravated assault resulting in death and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in death.

— Jonathan R. Pearson, 38, Wesley E. Clouse, 23, and Cody J. Albu, 23, were charged with aggravated assault resulting in death and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in death.

— Steve Necessary, 43, was charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in death.

— Glendon R. Wilkerson, 40, was charged with accessory after the fact to aggravated assault resulting in death.

According to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation news release, during the course of the investigation, authorities developed information that the six inmates, five of which were Lockner’s cellmates, conspired to carry out the assault.

Peterson was listed as a fugitive.

Woodard, Clouse, Albu, Necessary, and Wilkerson were served in the Washington County Detention Center, where they were already being held on unrelated charges.

Anyone with information regarding Peterson’s whereabouts was asked to call the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND or the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at 423-788-1414.

Keep checking www.JohnsonCityPress.com for more on this developing story.

Earlier:

Washington County sheriff’s officials will hold a 2 p.m. press conference related to the homicide of a man serving time in the Washington County Detention Center last month.

Joseph Lockner, 29, 109 Sheri St. in Gray, was found unresponsive on the bathroom floor by a detention officer after the officer heard a commotion. He was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center and was on life support when he died Dec. 20, 2018.

It’s likely there has been a grand jury presentment charging someone with Locker’s death.

“It is a homicide investigation now,” District Attorney General Ken Baldwin said in late December. “Once our investigation is concluded, and we will be taking the matter to the grand jury in January.”

A new Washington County grand jury was seated Thursday and heard several cases to determine if there was reason enough to indict.

A Washington County Sheriff’s Office press release two days after the attack stated the officer was conducting rounds in Lockner’s pod and found him. Clarification of the initial information came from Baldwin, who said the detention officer responded to a “thud” he heard in the bathroom and found Lockner.

Keep checking www.JohnsonCityPress.com for more on this developing story.

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