Piqua man’s family sues Ohio prison system over his murder by cellmate

The estate of a Miami County man who was murdered while a prisoner at Lebanon Correctional Institution has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Kevin Nill, 40, of Piqua was strangled and beaten to death by cellmate Jack Welninski on April 23, 2018, little more than an hour after they were put together in a cell at the prison west of Lebanon.

“Kevin’s mother’s main reason for bringing this lawsuit is to make sure the ODRC is held accountable for failing to follow its own internal rules against putting a violent inmate and a nonviolent inmate in the same cell,” lawyer R. Craig McLaughlin said in an email.

Nill was in prison on a felony attempted domestic violence conviction. On March 12, Welninski, 34, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for murdering Nill.

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Before murdering Nill, Welninski was to remain in prison until 2112 for attempted murder of a police officer, felonious assault, carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a firearm in a liquor establishment in Wood County, near Toledo.

According to trial testimony, Welninski murdered Nill out of the mistaken belief that he was a child molester and as a way to get moved to his own cell in the state’s newer, highest-security facility.

Welninski also stomped on Nill’s throat and afterward joked and suggested he hoped to get Nill’s food tray by delaying discovery of the murder.

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Because the murder happened in a state facility, the lawsuit was filed in the Ohio Court of Claims in Columbus and will be defended by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which declined to comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit claims prison staff failed to follow state guidelines.

“Before April 23, 2018, ODRC knew Welninski had ‘pistol whipped’ a customer at a bar in 2015, led police on a high-speed chase, and then engaged in an intense gun battle with at least one police officer from the police department in Oregon, Ohio,” according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of the estate and Nill’s mother, Tamara Baldwin, administrator of the estate.

“ODRC also knew Welninski had been bitten by a dog, shot during the gun battle, and his female significant other had committed suicide during the gun battle,” the lawsuit added. “ODRC also knew Welninski had violated numerous ODRC policies, procedures, rules, and regulations between the time he became an inmate at an ODRC facility and April 23, 2018.”

The guidelines are designed to protect inmates and prison staff.

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“Before April 23, 2018, ODRC knew Welninski was a known danger to ODRC employees and other inmates and could attack at any given time if given the opportunity,” the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit also points out Welninski used a bandage, given to him by prison staff to secure a broken arm, to strangle Nill.

The lawsuit also claims Welninski and the prison system were aware another former inmate at the prison, Casey Pigge, murdered his cellmate, Luther Wade, of Springfield, with a concrete block that had been removed from the cell wall “so Pigge would be transferred to a single-person cell at ODRC’s facility in Youngstown.”

The lawsuit seeks money damages, claiming Nill’s “mother, siblings, and other next of kin incurred funeral and burial expenses, suffered a loss of the society of the decedent (including a loss of companionship, consortium, care, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel, and instruction), suffered great mental anguish, and other damages and losses.”

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