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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Inmate dies in jail fire

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Jesse Johnson, 17, of Mammoth Spring was pronounced dead Sept. 6 after a fire in the Oregon County Jail at Alton.
Three remain in critical condition

ALTON -- A Mammoth Spring man is dead as the result of smoke inhalation that started in a jail cell on the third floor of the Oregon County Courthouse at Alton Sept. 6.

Jessie Johnson, 17, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Oregon County Sheriff Tim Ward said jailer Wendell Steel made a routine jail check at 9:23 p.m. on Sept. 6. Ward said at 9:40 p.m. the jailer was alerted by the yelling of prisoners and the sound of the fire alarm in the jail.

Ward said upon entering the jail Steel could see the smoke was too thick for him to enter the jail area and immediately requested assistance from law enforcement, ambulance and fire departments.

Cody Davis, Nicholas Pacheco and Robert Huff
Ward said he was at the jail in a matter of five minutes. "When we (rescuers) entered the jail area the smoke made visibility and breathing impossible. Breathing apparatuses had to be worn and windows were broken so some of the smoke could exit the building," the sheriff said.

Ward four inmates, Cody Davis, 19, of Alton, Robert Huff, 22, of Thayer, Nicholas Pacheco, 18, of Thayer, and Johnson were in the cell where the fire started. In a corner of the cell, paper, styrofoam cups, pieces of a Bible, mail, a shower curtain and a mattress were burned.

Davis, Huff and Pacheco were transported by Air Evac to St. John's Hospital in Springfield where they remain on ventilators as of press time Tuesday.

The sheriff said at this time he did know how the inmates started the fire.

In another cell in the jail were inmates Tim Martin, 47, of Alton, and Rodney Reed, 51, of Mammoth Spring. Reed was transported by Oregon County Ambulance to Ozarks Medical Center (OMC) in West Plains. Martin was transported by his family to OMC. Both were treated for smoke inhalation and released.

An autopsy was requested to determine the cause of Johnson's death. Michael Johnson with the Missouri State Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the fire.

"If our law enforcement officers in the area had not been cross-trained in fire and rescue the situation could have been a lot worse with more possible deaths," Ward said.

Fire departments from Alton, Thayer, BB Road, West Plains and Rover assisted at the scene. Ambulances from Oregon County, Howell County and St. John's from Mountain View assisted at the scene.

"This was a very unfortunate incident. We send our condolences to the family of Jessie Johnson and the others that were injured. If we missed anyone that helped in the rescue we apologize. All the help we received was greatly appreciated," said presiding commissioner Leo Warren.

According to records, Johnson was being held in the Oregon County jail awaiting a court appearance. Johnson was charged with armed criminal action, assault and burglary. The charges stem from an incident April 1 where Johnson is accused of robbing the Bullseye Convenience Store at Thayer at gun point and shooting Philip Berkley, 70, of Bolivar, Mo. in the leg.

Davis was serving a 60-day sentence on a conviction for theft of property.

Huff was awaiting bail of $4,900 on charges of second degree burglary and theft of property.

Pacheco was being held on a fugitive warrant from the state of Illinois.

Martin, whose bail was set at $4,900, was charged with driving without a license and DWI.

Reed was in jail for a probation violation in connection with a DWI, persistent offender.

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