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Mom of man found hanging in cell sues Iredell County sheriff

The mother of a 24-year-old Iredell County jail inmate found hanging unconscious in his cell in 2012 sued Sheriff Phil Redmond and a jailer in federal court on Wednesday.

Laura Gayle Hobbs contends in the lawsuit that her son, Donavon Luke Hobbs, hanged himself when jailer Donald Gullett left his assigned area for 45 to 100 minutes, leaving her son’s cell “completely unsupervised.”

The sheriff required Gullett to remain at all times within hearing distance of all detainees in the cell area, the lawsuit says. The sheriff fired Gullett after finding the officer “violated his obligation to remain within hearing distance” of the cells, the lawsuit says.

Donavon Hobbs was arrested on drug charges and couldn’t make bail, his mother says in the lawsuit, which was originally filed in Iredell County Superior Court and seeks at least $10,000 in damages.

Donavon Hobbs was taken to the hospital and died five days later, after his family had him removed from artificial life support, according to the lawsuit filed by Charlotte lawyer Luke Largess in U.S. District Court in Statesville.

In a response to the original lawsuit, defense lawyer Scott Hart of New Bern says Gullett left his post for only “a short period of time.”

Gullett and Redmond acted “without malice and with a good faith belief” that their duties were carried out in accordance with state and federal laws, Hart wrote in the response.

The officers are protected “by the doctrine of public officers or public officials immunity,” according to the sheriff’s and jailer’s response to the lawsuit. They have asked a judge dismiss the case.

Marusak: 704-358-5067; Twitter: @jmarusak
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