MUSKEGON, Mich. — The five people charged in connection to the death of an inmate at Muskegon County Jail in April 2019 appeared before a judge Wednesday for their preliminary hearing.
In April 2021, four jail staffers — Crystal Greve, Jamall Lane, Jeffrey Patterson, David Vanderlaan — and former Wellpath registered nurse Aubrey Schotts were charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 39-year-old Paul Bulthouse, who was an inmate at Muskegon County Jail at the time.
On April 4, 2019, Bulthouse was found unresponsive in his cell and was later pronounced dead. An autopsy report ruled that his cause of death was an epileptic seizure. The report also stated that he suffered from high blood pressure, heart disease and chronic alcohol use.
Since then the Michigan Sheriffs Association ruled that the workers that night acted appropriately in providing care and cell checks.
However, in summer 2020, the prosecution asked the attorney general’s office to conduct its own investigation. They did, and in April 2021, the five were charged with involuntary manslaughter.
The courtroom was packed for the preliminary hearing on Wednesday. The prosecution and defense went back and forth on a number of exhibits and details in the case. The exchange grew snappish at times, especially regarding the booking video and what the undersheriff saw.
However, for hours Wellpath supervisor David Lopez gave testimony about a range of topics from what nurses do on overnight shifts to the dates Schotts worked. Schotts was a Wellpath employee at the time. Wellpath provides nurses to the jail.
Lopez read some of Schotts's notes, dated April 4, 2019 at 6:15 a.m., that were taken after Bulthouse’s death.
“I noticed that his mouth was open and there was no chest rise,” Lopez said on the stand, reading the notes. “Finding no pulse, I again called his name and shook his shoulders. His skin was cold to the touch.”
Lopez then read that rigor mortis had set in on Bulthouse’s body and that Schotts was asked to put a blanket over him.
Bulthouse had been in jail since late March 2019 and was on suicide watch, the prosecution stated in court. They also said that he suffered from PTSD and trauma and that he needed to be watched more frequently.
Court recessed at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday and is expected to resume later this week.