Investigation in Tri-County Jail death took 4 months

In the four months it took Champaign County authorities to file charges in the beating death of David Piersol, the man accused of killing the Tri-County Regional Jail inmate was released from custody, missed a court appearance for an unrelated charge and is now sought on two separate warrants.

A Champaign County grand jury indicted Zachary R. Butler on Friday on charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, felonious assault, reckless homicide and tampering with evidence. A warrant for his arrest has been issued on those charges.

The decision whether to charge Butler with assault immediately after the April 5 incident was in the hands of the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office and prosecutor, according to jail Executive Director Scott Springhetti.

“We submit our reports to Mechanicsburg Police, or in this case the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office,” Springhetti said. “From there it’s their decision.”

Neither Champaign County Sheriff Matt Melvin nor County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi returned calls for comment on the case this week.

Butler was written up by jail staff members per their internal procedures, according to Springhetti,and he was isolated from the general jail population. Isolation or lock down is common practice when there is a threat to the safety of others in the jail, Springhetti said.

According to records obtained by the Springfield News-Sun, Butler was intoxicated when he was stopped by a Union County sheriff’s deputy in Milford Center about 5 p.m. April 4. The suspect refused a alcohol breath test, so it is unknown what his level of intoxication was when he was booked into the jail at 8:21 p.m. that day or when the assault allegedly occurred about six hours later.

Butler was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated and resisting arrest. He was spotted driving his van recklessly on Ohio 4 and made a rude gesture at an off-duty Marysville police officer and his 11-year-old daughter as he passed them at a high rate of speed, according to his arrest report.

The jail has procedures in place for handling individuals who arrive intoxicated, Springhetti said.

“We keep them in our booking area, or may keep them under observation,” he said. “It all depends on what kind of signs they are showing of intoxication.”

Very drunk individuals, above a 0.3 blood-alcohol content, have to be medically cleared before entering the jail.

Butler, 24, was cleared to enter the general jail population that evening.

He is accused of assaulting Piersol, 39, about six hours later. Piersol was in the jail awaiting trail for charges including rape, gross sexual imposition and sexual battery of a 3-year-old girl.

Piersol then went to bed, but later fell from his top bunk and was airlifted to Miami Valley Hospital, where he died April 11.

Butler went on to plead no contest to the OVI and resisting arrest charges. He was sentenced to time served, fined and ordered to do community service and undergo an alcohol evaluation. His driver’s license was suspended through Oct. 1.

On April 25, two weeks after Piersol died, Butler was released after posting a $5,000 bond related to a separate Logan County assault case. He is accused of beating an acquaintance in Bellefontaine last year.

He made a court appearance in Bellefontaine with his court-appointed lawyer in May, according to an online docket, but then requested a hearing to appoint a new attorney.

That hearing was to be held July 28, but Butler didn’t show up and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Butler, who’s last listed address was in Richwood in Union County, was not in custody as of Tuesday afternoon.

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