A Benton County inmate has been indicted and charged in connection with the in-custody death of a fellow inmate earlier this year. On Monday, October 3, the Benton County Grand Jury returned indictments charging Jason K. Johnson with Second Degree Murder and Introduction of Contraband into a Penal Facility.
On May 24, at the request of former 24th Judicial District Attorney General Matt Stowe, TBI special agents began investigating the in-custody death of Christopher S. Ellis, 44, at the Benton County Jail. An autopsy determined Ellis’ death was due to a drug overdose. During the course of the investigation, agents determined Johnson, 47, was the person responsible for supplying the drugs to Ellis while in the Benton County Jail.
Ellis was incarcerated on charges of violation of probation, related to being found guilty of DUI on Jan. 27. On Monday, in conjunction with current 24th Judicial District Attorney General Neil Thompson, agents presented the case. Johnson remains incarcerated in Benton County on unrelated charges, was served arrest warrants on the indicted charges. His bond on these counts is set at $500,000. Benton County Sheriff’s Office does not possess any X-ray or other scanning equipment for physical searches of an inmate’s body by jail personnel when inmates are logged into the facility.
“We are in need of so much equipment, I have even tried to get some of the older equipment from Nashville and such but it is so expensive,” says Benton County Sheriff Christopher, “but my main concern right now is keeping our county schools safe. But that’s another story.”
Since 2001, the number of people who have died of drug or alcohol intoxication in state prisons has increased by more than 600 percent, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In county jails, overdose deaths increased by over 200 percent during the same period. Johnson has an extensive criminal history according to Christopher and was being held on charges on manufacturing meth, and other drug related charges, eight being felonies.