Investigation underway in Delaware County Jail deaths


Two people died Sunday night after they were placed in the Delaware County Jail, and Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin said an investigation is underway.

Dead are Rhianna Filichia, 38, of Ashley, and Tye Downard, 43, of Westerville, a Reynoldsburg police detective who had been arrested last week. The deaths are apparently not related.

Filichia’s death is believed to be related to a medical issue, while Downard committed suicide in the jail.

Filichia was pronounced dead at Grady Memorial Hospital due to a medical issue about 8:30 p.m. Sunday, deputies said.

Hours later, at 1:30 a.m. Monday, Downard was found dead in his jail cell during hourly inmate checks. Martin said Downard hanged himself with his bed sheet in his single-person jail cell.

Teresa Berry, Filichia’s mother, told The Gazette Monday that Filichia had surgery in December because she had diverticulitis and was having medical problems after the surgery.

Court documents indicate that Filichia was ordered to serve jail time on work release, meaning she would report to the county jail on the weekends but would be released to work during the week. She was convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated in July 2013.

Deputies said Monday that Filichia had come to the jail to serve her sentence three or four times since the beginning of the year but failed to report this past weekend. A warrant was issued for her arrest and she was taken into custody Saturday, deputies said.

Berry said Filichia did not report to the jail because she was in the emergency room. She said that when deputies went to her home to arrest her, her fiancé told deputies about the medical issues and begged them not to take her.

“They were well aware she had been ill,” Berry said Monday.

Berry said that when she found out her daughter had died, she contacted the Delaware County Jail and spoke to a staff member who said they noticed Filichia was ill, was having trouble swallowing pills and was vomiting a green substance.

“There’s got to be someone held accountable,” said Berry, who added that she was in a state of “terrible shock” Monday.

“It’s horrible,” Berry said. “Especially not knowing what went on in there.”

Berry said Filichia was “a wonderful person” who wasn’t in trouble with the law, apart from one offense.

Downard was arrested by U.S. marshals last Thursday after authorities say he made more than 20 narcotic deliveries between October 2015 and this month, according to the Associated Press. Some of the drugs may have been seized during police investigations and included heroin, cocaine, marijuana and Percocet, the AP reported.

Martin said Monday that Downard had been evaluated by the jail psychologist when he was admitted to the jail Thursday and there were no indications he was contemplating suicide. He was not on suicide watch.

The county jail was holding Downard for the federal court.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Martin said: “We take every injury and loss of life seriously, and we are deeply saddened by these two incidents that occurred in our jail overnight. There is no evidence they are related in any way.”

Martin added that — in keeping with the jail’s policies — the sheriff’s office is “fully investigating both deaths” and said autopsies done by the Franklin County Coroner’s Office would be key parts of the investigation, but results from the autopsies could take between six to eight weeks.

“I firmly believe the fully staffed jail did their jobs, including proper monitoring, inmate checks, rendering medical first aid,” Martin said Monday. “I have spent time with the jail staff since early this morning. These are competent and caring employees who have been greatly impacted by these events. These corrections officers prevent, on average, five suicide attempts each year. They are professional and I’m proud to work with them. But this is my jail. My responsibility.”

“I’m going to do everything within my power to ensure that we make this jail as difficult a place as possible for inmates to harm themselves,” he continued. “We have an in-house psychologist and 24/7 on-site medical care at the jail.”

Martin said the jail was at full staff at the time the deaths occurred.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to both of these families who have suffered the ultimate loss of their loved ones,” Martin said.

Downard Courtesy photos | Delaware County Jail

Filichia Courtesy photos | Delaware County Jail

By Glenn Battishill

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

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