, Corbin, KY

Whitley County Sheriff Investigation

December 17, 2010

Hodge named in wrongful death suit

CORBIN — Dec. 17, 2010.pdf

By Becky Killian / Managing Editor

Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge is among the parties named in a $12.4 million wrongful death lawsuit filed by a representative of the estate of Cassandra Byrd, according to documents filed in London’s U.S. District Court.

Byrd, 31, died June 5 as she was being arrested by Whitley County Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Hodge. Byrd reportedly tried to flee and ran into the path of an SUV and was struck and killed.

The lawsuit, filed by Byrd’s estate adminstratix Crystal Lee Meibeyer, names as defendants Whitley County, Lawrence Hodge both as an individual and in his official capacity as sheriff, and current or former deputy Ben Hodge.

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 3, said Byrd’s treatment “was the result of a continued pattern of misconduct” by the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department, court documents state.

The complaint states Byrd was deprived her of civil rights, that she was subjected to unreasonable search and seizure, that she was falsely arrested and had committed no crime, that emotional distress was inflicted upon her, that Ben Hodge acted negligently and that the sheriff’s department failed to train its police officers.

Meibeyer has asked for a jury trial and court documents state she is seeking $12.4 million.

On June 5, county officials said Byrd had stopped along the interstate, possibly due to car trouble. Whitley County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Ben Hodge stopped to check on the car and the driver and found Byrd was intoxicated.

Ben Hodge tried to arrest Byrd, who reportedly escaped his custody and ran into the highway where she was struck by a passing SUV and killed, police said.

Byrd died from blunt force head trauma, blunt force trauma to the extremities and blunt force trauma to the chest, according to Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley. The other significant condition contributing to but not resulting in the underlying cause of death was drug abuse, or intoxication, Croley said.

A toxicology report showed Byrd’s blood alcohol content was .224, Croley said. The legal limit in Kentucky is .08. The test also was positive for THC, the active ingredient found in marijuana.

A large bag of marijuana and alcohol were found in Byrd’s car, Croley said.

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Whitley County Sheriff Investigation
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