The Frontier is again tracking every jail death in Oklahoma in 2020. We hope to uncover more about how and why people die in Oklahoma jails.

Did we miss an incident or would you like to talk to us about one listed below? Email or

No. 15

Chester Wayne Level Jr. FACEBOOK

No. 14

Name: Chester Wayne Level, Jr.

Age: 35

Died: July 9, 2020

Location: Midwest City Jail

What happened: Another prisoner alerted jailers that Level was unresponsive. He was transported to Alliance Health Midwest hospital, where he was pronounced dead a few hours later.

Cause and manner of death: Unknown

Name: Tammy German

Age: 58

Died: July 6, 2020

Location: Idabel City Jail

What happened: German was being held at the jail after police arrested her on suspicion of public intoxication on the Fourth of July.

Jailers reported that German was behaving erratically and suspected she was still under the influence of methamphetamine more than 24 hours after her arrest. They moved her into an isolation cell to detox after she got into an altercation with another inmate. One jailer reported that her breathing seemed shallow during the night and later found her unresponsive in the early morning hours of July 6. She was transported to McCurtain Memorial Hospital and declared dead.

Cause and manner of death: Unknown

No. 13

Name: Desirae Denton

Age: 35

Died: June 13, 2020

Location: Oklahoma County Detention Center in Oklahoma City

What happened: A nurse conducting medical rounds found Denton unresponsive on her bunk in a cell.

Cause and manner of death: Unknown

No. 12

Name: Matthew Mason

Age: 35

Died: May 23, 2020

Location: Oklahoma County Detention Center in Oklahoma City

What happened: A jailer found Mason unresponsive in his cell, hanging from the top bunk with a bed sheet wrapped around his neck.

Cause and manner of death: Possible suicide by hanging

No. 11

Name: Jimmy Knighten

Age: 77

Died: June 12, 2020

Location: David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center in Tulsa

What happened: Knighten was transported to St. John Medical Center on May 30, 2020 for a possible stroke. He was pronounced dead 13 days later.

Cause and manner of death: Possible stroke

No. 10

Jay Patrick Taylor OBITUARY PHOTO
Name: Jay Patrick Taylor

Age: 20

Died: May 10, 2020

Location: McClain County Jail in Purcell

What happened: A jailer passing out food trays for breakfast discovered Taylor laying on the floor of his cell. He had been suicide watch. Emergency responders declared Taylor at the scene.

Cause and manner of death: Unknown

No. 9

Joseph Wiley Rhodes OBITUARY PHOTO
Name: Joseph Wiley Rhodes

Age: 44

Died: May 2, 2020

Location: Haskell County Criminal Justice Center in Stigler

What happened: A jailer found Rhodes laying on the floor of his cell, blue and unresponsive after he did not get up for breakfast.

Cause and manner of death: Unknown

No. 8

Name: Dustin Dabbs

Age: 32

Died: March 16, 2020

Location: Broken Bow Police Department

What happened: A Broken Bow police officer discovered Dabbs unresponsive in a holding cell. A jail blanket was attached to the cell door and wrapped around his neck.

Cause and manner of death: Suspected death by suicide

No. 7

Photo unavailable
Name: Unknown

Age: Unknown

Died: March 13, 2020

Location: Carter County Jail in Ardmore

What happened: An inmate collapsed in the jail day room. Sheriff Chris Bryant told a reporter for the Daily Ardmoreite that the man had a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and died of a heart attack.

No. 6

Photo unavailable
Name: Gary Nin Austin

Age: 71

Location: Cherokee County Detention Center in Tahlequah

What happened: Austin was found unresponsive in his cell and pronounced dead on the scene by emergency responders.

Cause and manner of death: Unknown No. 5

Moses Alexander Jr. OBITUARY PHOTO

Name: Moses L. Alexander Jr.

Age: 70

Died: Jan. 26, 2020

Location: Muskogee County Detention Facility in Muskogee

What happened: Jailers found Alexander unresponsive on the floor of a jail day room. He was transported to St. Francis Hospital Muskogee and pronounced dead.

Cause and manner of death: Unknown

No. 4
Christopher Heatherington OBITUARY PHOTO

Name: Christopher Heatherington
Age: 39
Died: Jan. 15, 2020
Location: LeFlore County Detention Center in Poteau

What happened: Jailers were alerted that Heatherington was having a seizure after other prisoners began kicking the dorm room door. Heatherington was found unresponsive. Emergency responders declared him dead on the scene. 

Cause and manner of death: Unknown 

No. 3

Michael Guthrie

Name: Michael Guthrie
Age: 47
Died: Jan. 13, 2020
Location: Muskogee County Jail 
Cause and manner of death: Undetermined
What happened: Guthrie was assaulted by another inmate on January 3, and taken to a hospital for treatment according to KTUL. Guthrie was treated at the hospital, cleared and released back to custody.

Guthrie’s health started to deteriorate later that day and he was again transported to a hospital where he died, according to KTUL.  

OSBI is investigating his death. 

No. 2

Michael Reagan Jr. OBITUARY PHOTO

Name: Michael Reagan Jr. 
Age: 44
Died: Jan. 13, 2020
Location: Okmulgee County Criminal Justice Authority 
Cause and manner of death: Undetermined
What happened: 

Updated story, Jan. 15, 2020: Reagan appeared to be having a seizure in his cell on January 13, according to an incident report jail staff sent to the state jail inspector. He reportedly also had a cut on the back of his head, the report states. 

Jailers placed Reagan in a wheelchair and took him to the nursing office to be assessed, the report states. He was placed in a cell for medical observation. About 30 minutes later, Reagan appeared to again have a seizure. Jail transport was told he needed to be taken to a hospital. After another 15 minutes had passed, the man appeared to have another seizure, according to the report. 

Reagan became unresponsive, the report states. A nurse checked for a pulse but could not find one. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Original story: Reagan experienced a medical episode shortly after being booked into the jail, said District 25 District Attorney Carol Iski. The medical team at the jail immediately called an ambulance, and Reagan was taken to a local hospital, Iski said.

Reagan again had a medical episode at the hospital, where he later died, Iski said. 

Iski said there is no investigation pending into Reagan’s death and no foul play is suspected. 

Reagan was booked into the jail after being indicted on federal charges on Jan. 10, 2020. 

No. 1


Name: LaWanda Ward
Age: 46
Died: Jan. 6, 2020
Location: Tulsa Municipal Jail
Cause and manner of death: Undetermined
What happened: Ward was arrested on January 2 on six municipal misdemeanor warrants, according to a news release from the Tulsa Police Department. A spokesman initially stated Ward turned herself in. 

Ward told officers upon arrest that she did not feel well, TPD Sgt. Shane Tuell said. Officers notified EMSA paramedics, who cleared the woman for incarceration, he said.

Tuell said Ward was routinely checked in while at the jail, as inmates normally are. On the morning of January 6, Ward was found unresponsive in her cell and was transported to a Tulsa hospital where she was pronounced dead 20 minutes following her arrival, according to an incident report the city sent to the state jail inspector. 

Ward was last seen sleeping in her bunk that morning, the report states. 

TPD has opened an investigation into her death, Tuell said. Tuell said Ward was involved in no altercations and did not indicate she was a danger to herself. 

Ward was scheduled to appear before a judge the morning she died, records show. 

Tuell said the death is the facility’s first since it opened in 2018.

TPD has requested that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation investigate Ward’s death.

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