Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Details emerge in county jail investigation

by CHAUNCEY ROSS chauncey@indianagazette.net on November 29, 2011 3:30 AM

A string of sexual affairs between a guard and inmates was well-known for some time among those incarcerated at Indiana County Jail, according to court papers released Monday.

But the broom-closet trysts, and incidents of oppression by another county jail guard, came to light by accident, a state police trooper reported.

Inmates told police that corrections officers Molly Gross and Margaret Dailey maintained a homosexual relationship and that, in 2009 and 2010, Gross had sexual activity with three female prisoners in the lockup, prompting retaliation by Dailey, court papers show.

[Indiana County Jail. Tom Peel/Gazette file photo]

A prisoner escaped from the Indiana County Jail as he was being taken into the jail. He originally ran across the Hood School Road and into the woods. The Indiana County Sheriff's Department and the State Police posted around the area as they searched for the prisoner. Bob Snyder with the Indiana County Sheriff's Department brought in his dog to help with the search.

One of the inmates told Trooper Allison Goswick that "any attempts inmates made to report the incidents were deflected," Goswick wrote in the criminal complaints.

County Jail Warden Carol Hummel said this morning that she had no information about the inmates' reports.

"I have not spoken to the victims in this case as of yet, which I will do for internal purposes," Hummel said. "But I have not spoken to them since these statements were made."

Goswick arrested Gross and Dailey Wednesday morning and charged them with multiple felony and misdemeanor counts in criminal complaints filed at the Clymer district court. Because of court holidays, the documents were unavailable to the public until Monday.

Preliminary hearings scheduled for today for Gross, 43, and Dailey, 50, have been postponed until Feb. 7.

Hummel said both have been suspended from their jobs at the jail but declined to give other details because their standings are to be handled by the Indiana County Salary Board.

According to the county commissioners' office, Gross was hired May 8, 2009, as a part-time corrections officer and was promoted to full time on Aug. 12, 2009.

Dailey was hired part time on Dec. 1, 1999, and went full time Jan. 22, 2001, a county official said.

Goswick learned of the sex affairs in the course of an unrelated probe as she listened to recordings of inmate telephone calls, according to the complaints. Inmate Misty Murphy, who had been jailed in September on burglary charges, was heard telling a family member that Gross and Dailey were dating and that Gross had dated a female inmate.

In a follow-up interview, Murphy, 30, told Goswick that after she was arrested, "it was made common knowledge to her that Gross had several relationships inside the jail with female inmates," and that she had seen Gross and one of the inmates together in the summer of 2010 in a truck in Dixonville.

Murphy's information led Goswick to three inmates -- Lane Shelstad, Maranda Smith and Tammy Cravener -- who all had been released from the jail at least 11 months before Murphy was incarcerated, according to court records.

In interviews conducted between Nov. 8 and 21, each told Goswick that Gross proposed to maintain relationships with them after they were released from jail.

Cravener, 28, said she "made out" with Gross three times in a broom closet between Sept, 23, 2009, and March 17, 2010, and that Gross told her she wanted to live with her when she got out of jail. But Cravener, of Kittanning, said Dailey discovered her relationship with Gross and "began treating her poorly," Goswick reported.

Cravener told Goswick that Dailey made false accusations against another inmate and forced several inmates to write false statements about incidents that never really happened, and that she got nowhere when she tried to report the incidents.

"She advised that she wrote several letters to the public defender's office while she was incarcerated but thought that they were destroyed," Goswick wrote in an affidavit of probable cause for the charges. "She (Cravener) advised that any attempts inmates made to report the incidents were deflected."

A staff worker at the Indiana County Public Defender's Office this morning referred questions to Chief Public Defender Donald McKee, who was not available for comment.

It was after Dailey began mistreating her that Cravener learned of the relationship between Gross and Dailey, and she ended her own relationship with Gross to avert further retaliation by Dailey, according to court papers.

Smith, 28, told police that Dailey began making threats to her after Dailey found her and Gross kissing in a closet in the jail. Dailey forced Smith to write a statement falsely accusing another inmate of throwing excrement and making threats against Dailey and Gross, the court records show. Dailey also threatened to have Smith placed in restricted housing and tried to smash Smith's hand in a fit of anger over Smith's relationship with Gross, Goswick reported.

Smith told police that her relationship with the guard began when Smith asked Gross to relay notes to another female inmate.

"She advised that she and Gross started passing notes to each other and flirting. … (and) that approximately five to six times she met with Gross in the employee bathroom to have sexual contact," Goswick wrote.

Smith, of Dixonville, told Goswick that the relationship continued after March 2010, when she was released from the jail. Gross texted and phoned her, Smith visited Gross' home, and the pair had sex in Gross' truck on a dirt road, Goswick reported.

They talked of moving together to Delaware but the relationship ended because Smith was afraid of Dailey and Gross feared losing her job if their affair was discovered, court records show. After the breakup in the summer of 2010, Dailey phoned Smith and threatened that "she would make her pay" if Smith didn't stay away from Gross, it was reported.

Shelstad, 29, told Goswick that she and Gross flirted, passed notes and had indecent contact in the jail library, in a closet and in Shelstad's cell. Their relationship went on between September 2009 and October 2010, and Shelstad gave Gross her cellphone number to contact her after she was released, according to the criminal complaints.

But Shelstad, of Marion Center, reported that she discovered Gross and Dailey were involved with each other and asked Gross to tell Dailey about their relationship.

"She advised that Gross threatened her that she could easily find (Shelstad's) address," Goswick wrote.

According to criminal complaints, Gross, of Ligonier, was charged with 10 counts of having sex with inmates, an activity that, whether voluntary or forced, is criminalized as a felony offense called institutional sexual assault. She also is charged with three felony counts of making terroristic threats and three misdemeanor charges of official oppression.

Dailey, of Indiana, faces three counts each of making terroristic threats and official oppression.

Investigators earlier reported that Gross was charged at the outset of Goswick's investigation with making threats against Murphy in the county jail.

Goswick charged Gross with making terroristic threats, intimidation of a witness, official oppression and harassment, alleging that Gross lashed out after learning that Murphy tipped off Goswick to the sexual activity with inmates.

According to a criminal complaint filed Nov. 3 in Indiana district court, inmate Devona Carter reported that Gross told Murphy, "listen up, I'm only going to say this once, you will not be in jail forever," a statement that she inferred was a threat. Carter told Goswick that Gross also yelled at Murphy, "stop (expletive) telling on me."

A second inmate, Brean Buggey, told police that inmate Chrystal Oswalt told Gross she was going to "kick Misty's ass" and that Gross then repeatedly encouraged Oswalt to harm Murphy.

Gross is to appear Dec. 15 for a preliminary hearing on the intimidation charges before District Judge Guy Haberl.

Oswalt, 30, of Indiana, and Murphy, who are reported to be sisters, are co-defendants with several other suspects charged in connection with a series of residential break-ins in Washington, Rayne, Young and White townships.

According to court papers, Carter and Buggey told police they filed formal requests with county jail administrators to talk to police because they were concerned for Murphy's safety.

Murphy remains in the county jail and is scheduled to appear Thursday in Indiana County Common Pleas Court for formal arraignment on the burglary counts.

Gross and Dailey initially were lodged in the county jail but both posted $25,000 bond and were released to await action before District Judge George Thachik.

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