PRINCETON, WV (WVNS) — Kevin Whitaker grew up in Princeton.
He was a son to his mother, Tammy Saunders, a brother to his sister, Sadie Keener, a father to two children, and had a passion for tattoo art.
“He was a tattoo artist, and he had been for many years, ” Tammy Saunders said. “He used to have a business here in Princeton called ‘Son of a Gun’ and then he left to travel and moved back here about six years ago. ”
As his family stressed, Kevin was also human and made mistakes. He was taken to Southern Regional Jail on Friday, February 15, after being arrested on a bench warrant from missing court for prior DUI charges.
He would be there less than two days before Sadie’s husband got a devastating phone call and had to relay a gut wrenching message to his wife.
“He got off the phone and I looked at him and was like say it…and he’s like ‘I don’t know how to say it,'” Sadie recalled. “Then he said it, he’s like ‘there’s been an incident and your brother is gone’…and I’m like ‘gone where?'”
According to court records, three men, Anthony Lee Johnson, Dallas Allen Lauschin and Thomas Antwon Jones, allegedly entered Kevin’s cell on Saturday, February 16, with the intent to beat him up.
“Kevin was in his bunk asleep and the guys came in and jerked him out and began beating on him,” Saunders recalled. “He hit his panic button, and they said it took four minutes from the video they saw for the guys to leave the cell.”
The criminal complaint also stated after the men left, Whitaker was ‘crying,’ claiming he was having trouble breathing and bleeding from his mouth and eye, with a large knot on his head.
Court records alleged approximately one and a half hours later, correctional officers were notified by Whitaker that he needed to go to the hospital. While waiting for EMS, Whitaker lost consciousness and was unresponsive.
He was later pronounced dead at Appalachian Regional Hospital. His family is now left wondering why, and if anything could have been done differently that night.
In September, the three alleged attackers as well as two more men, Eugene Lane and Galen Ray Stewart, were indicted on first degree murder and conspiracy charges. They were arraigned on October 1.
We did reach out to spokesperson for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, Lawrence Messina, who stated:
“The incident occurred before the section was locked down, so inmates could move about. We are adamant that an officer and additional staff responded immediately when alerted. There was no delay.”Lawrence Messina, Director of Communications for WVDMAPS
Raleigh County Attorney, Brian Parsons, who is handling this case, said hearings for the defendants and a trial will most likely be set for January.