LLANO — Llano County officials and the mother of a man found dead in the Llano County Jail settled a federal lawsuit June 21 before the matter headed to federal court.
The county agreed to pay $212,500 plus up to $2,000 in documented court fees to the family of Shawn Appell. On Aug. 6, 2011, Llano County Jail officials found Appell, 45, dead in his cell after he apparently beat his head against the wall. Appell was being held in the jail on charges of “intentionally and knowingly” driving his vehicle into a hangar bay door. But the man had previous legal problems including one in which a psychologist described him as having a condition that interferes with his rational understanding.
After Appell’s death, a grand jury indicted two jailers on felony charges in relation to the man’s suicide. On May 2, the two men, Scottie Scoggins and Donny Stewart, pled “no contest” to Class B misdemeanor deadly conduct charges. Both men would serve jail time and do community service as part of the pleas.
In November 2012, Appell’s mother, Shirley Appell, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the U.S. District Court-Western District of Texas, Austin Division on behalf of her son. In the lawsuit, Shirley Appell named the two jailers, Llano County Sheriff Bill Blackburn and the county as defendants.
In the lawsuit, Shirley Appell claimed the “defendants allowed Shawn to kill himself when they did not intervene while he beat his head against a cell wall for two days. He died of blunt force trauma to his head.”
Llano County Judge Wayne Brascom said, as part of the mediation agreement that occurred June 20 in Austin, the Appell family gave full release to all the defendants named in the lawsuit.
Along with the financial settlement, the county agreed to several other matters in regard to the jail, Brascom said.
Those included requiring jailers attend an intermediate suicide prevention course, the county provide certified training on use of a restraint chair and maintain recording records of all security cameras in the detention facility for at least a 30-day period.
The county judge pointed out the Llano County Jail doesn’t have a reputation as a problem facility.
“We have never failed an inspection by the jail standards. So our jail has always been an exceptionally run and maintained jail,” Brascom said. “However, something bad happened, and what can you do to correct that situation? And that’s what we’re attempting to do.
“It’s an unfortunate thing that happened. We’re trying to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Brascom said the money for the financial settlement will come out of the county’s reserves.
While the settlement is more than $200,000, Brascom said it probably saved taxpayers money down the road.
“My opinion is that I feel like what we did was to the benefit of our citizens, financially,” he said. “It also closes this issue.”
Staff writer Connie Swinney also contributed to this report.