|Tina Pierce, April Troyn's mother has filed wrongful death suit|
Meridian, TX – After one reads through the record, the question that stands out in the mind is, why did public officials create as much ado over a routine investigation as they did?
Bosque County officialdom's near total misapprehension of public record law and the resulting miscues have done nothing to obscure the tragic facts of a very ugly story.
April Troyn died when a ligature choked off her breath. She was alone when a jailer found her “unresponsive,” her body, which was massive for a female, lifeless and, according to an EMT who arrived within minutes, cold to the touch.
The ligature was made from a strip of blanket material that left a discolored marke .6 to 1.5 cm in width, cut by unknown means, wrapped around her neck, and “tied into weaved cage then around her neck,” according to Beth Brasfield, an employee at the Bosque County Jail.
The medical examiner who conducted an autopsy on her 264-pound body, 5 feet, 11 inches in length, said the ligature left a discolored swath of marred skin and flesh, her eyes closed in the repose of death, the tip of her tongue between her teeth. The doctor noted that there had been no “therapeutic intervention,” and that he body was tattooed with various designs involving the names of family members, stars, flowers, and the motto emblazoned over one ankle, “Trust no man.”
All this information and more Sheriff Anthony Malott and his staff withheld, though they had released a media statement two days later on May 6 to reporters more favored, and thus obtaining privilege where none, in fact, exists.
Their publicly stated reason, that the matter was the subject of an ongoing investigation, is invalid, according to an opinion reached by an Assistant Texas Attorney General because once facts have been released to any members of the public, though they may be media outlets, they are no longer confidential.
Obtaining records that actually belong to We The People of The State of Texas, in whose name the peace and dignity is hopefully preserved through thousands upon thousands of felony indictments each year, has taken nearly five months.
State law demands that such records be released “promptly” when properly requested, though an agency can request the opinion of The Office of the Attorney General within 10 days, precisely what has been requested must be furnished to the reviewing officials within 15 days. Bosque County officials missed both deadlines by a wide margin. Subsequently, all information is subject to release, be it under investigation, or not, according to the ruling.
Almost all the facts contained in those records were known on the day Ms. Troyn died, May 4, 2013, after spending 48 hours in custodial detention, charged with abandonment and/or reckless endangerment of her 5-year-old son on a December afternoon the previous year, followed by the issuance of an arrest warrant on a day in February, and her subsequent arrest on May 2.
On that day, Sheriff Malott requested an investigation by a Texas Ranger. The Ranger knew then almost all the facts contained in the packet of information Robt. S. Davis, an attorney representing Bosque County in the matter in anticipation of a lawsuit for wrongful death, released this week.
Two highlights of the report, which was dictated on May 6 and completed for release on May 29, are that there were tiny hemorrhages in the retinal tissues of her eyes and the hyoid bone of her throat was intact. Both facts indicate to an expert witness that she was probably not choked to death. Her body was otherwise in good condition, with no defensive wounds or lacerations suffered as a result of an attack. Her heart was enlarged; she was morbidly obese, and a sample of her aortic blood showed the had been under the influence of the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, THC, but no other drugs.
The very detailed custodial death report indicates that she was not suffering from an injury or illness when authorities booked her into the jail almost exactly 48 hours previously, had suffered no attack while there, and had fought with no one while in custody.
Two sets of fingerprints and one set of palm prints compared with those previously obtained when she was arrested for such minor offenses as disorderly conduct and driving a vehicle while license invalid over a failure to pay equipment violation citations when she failed to secure her children in car seats proved that she is the same April Troyn of record.
Her mother and her sister have alleged that she was the subject of numerous inquiries by Clifton Police Department officers regarding what she may have known about a case of arson leveled against her sister and her husband following the alleged torching by means of petroleum distillates of a rent house in which they lived in Clifton.
Sheriff Malott has filed a petition seeking to depose Ms. Troyn's mother, Tina Pierce, in anticipation of a lawsuit seeking redress of wrongful death. She has filed a petition by and through her attorney, Jim Dunnam of Waco, seeking damages in State District Court.
No hearing has as yet been set to show cause for the deposition, said a court official.
According to a complaint delivered to the offices of Criminal District Attorney B.J. Shepherd by e-mail, “Complainant alleges Sheriff Malott violated Sec. 552.221 (of the Texas Public Records Act) and failed to make public information available promptly.”
Mr. Shepherd released information from the autopsy to Waco news media outlets at the exclusion of others, claiming, as did the Sheriff, that the matter is under investigation.
Such an offense, if proven, is a Class B Misdemeanor, and as such is considered legally as an act of official misconduct. Should Mr. Shepherd decline prosecution of Sheriff Malott due to a conflict of interest, the complaint could be referred to the Attorney General, according to Randall Scott Gates, a former police officer who has lost his reserve officer status due to vigorous police objections over his having made numerous controversial public records requests in McLennan, Bosque, and Bell Counties.