Two inmates found dead at Riley County Jail within two weeks

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(Archive photo | Collegian Media Group)

Manhattan resident Joseph Varvel died April 28 while in confinement at Riley County Jail. 

After an arrest for possession of cocaine, possession of drug paraphernalia and interference with law enforcement, Varvel complained of breathing issues while in custody. Riley County Emergency Medical Services arrived on scene at 1:56 a.m. and cleared Varvel at 2:05 a.m., Aaron Wintermote, Riley County Police Department public information officer, said. 

“EMS was called back at 3:32,” Wintermote said. “Varvel became physically ill while he was at the jail, and his condition deteriorated quickly. Corrections officers began life saving treatment. EMS arrived at the jail at 3:41 a.m. and continued to perform life saving treatments. He was then transported to Via Christi Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 3:47 a.m.” 

This is the second death in the jail within two weeks. The first was Laura Pearce on April 15.

“Miss Pearce was found unresponsive in her single cell in the Riley County Jail on April 15 around 8:30 a.m.,” Wintermote said. “Corrections officers found her and started life saving treatment. Riley County EMS arrived at 8:32. Paramedics continued life saving measures. She was pronounced dead at 8:52 a.m. at the Riley County Jail. We do not believe there is any foul play with this and it is pretty clearly a suicide.”

Both deaths are under investigation by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and autopsies will be performed. 

Wintermote said neither of these deaths are related. 

“I know they were in close proximity,” Wintermote said. “The suicide was the first death we have had at the jail since basically its creation that we know of. So, for that to happen and then to have another one two weeks later, there could maybe be conspiracy theories or things out there; but these are two separate instances, two really unfortunate situations that aren’t connected in any sort of way.”