October 19, 2019
No investigation led to improved jail advocacy for disabled
RAVES that at least one positive came from all the hell caused when some cops, county investigators and county prosecutors
jailed an innocent man without bail for nearly two years, without ever investigating his statement that he shot a man beating him in
seld-defense. Inmates and detainees with developmental disabilities (Mental Retardation, Autism) and extreme mental health
issues, such incapacitating psychosis grew to have a strong advocate in Chris Shellhammer during his 22-month incarceration,
prior to being found not guilty last week in court and being released.
RAVES to Chris, for having cared about that specific population there at the prison. One of the first he advocated for was a man,
who at one time this editor knew in a previous job, monitoring county residents in state psych units, then again, while assisting
with the coordination the closure of one state psych hospital and transfer to another and the man's subsequent discharge to
Last year, at least three of that man's former outpatient program staff immediately teared up or burst into tears when our paths
crossed for a few weeks, when they heard where he was and how badly the man decompensated inside the county prison. He
was incarcerated for being combative when evicted from his home.
RAVES that Chris Shellhammer got that man's story out, of being in a restrictive turtle suit, in the prison crying and screaming,
eating his own waste, with sores over his body. That poor soul might still be in the basement, naked in the turtle suit eating his
own waste, waiting for a transfer to a state psych unit, had Chris not cared.
Not that being an advocate for all of them could have been emotionally easy, either.
For instance, there was the one fellow with part of his brain missing, who sometimes screamed inconsolably once he escalated,
for hours, who was mercilessly hosed with cold water by a guard. The man only screamed louder and needed the warden to
come in later to try to calm him, to no avail at that point.
That same man, with part of his brain missing, prior to the day of the hosing, had taunted Chris and other inmates and detainees
with toddler age children, that he wanted to rape their young children and would do so when he was free. RAVES, after being the
target of the man's hatred, that Chris cared to act as an advocate to that same disabled man who brought him so much personal
grief, when Chris saw the man being abused.
Nearly anyone else would have punched that putrid mouth shut... which brings us to another mind boggling point, of why, listening
along for 22 months to the day to day incarceration issues, it was difficult to listen to some of the police, county investigators and
county prosecutors protest bail on the basis that Chris was a threat to the public.
RANTS that they called him that, yet, housed him with some of the most fragile inmates, or ones the general population may have
bullied or too easily physically harmed. Why?
Jail staff knew Chris would not physically harm them.
For his efforts to get developmentally disabled or psychotic inmates or detainees a briefer wait or better care in the meantime
waiting for a transfer to a state psych unit, Chris was respected by staff who sometimes wrote here to say so, and disliked by
other staff for pointing out when a guard hosed an disabled inmate who wouldn't press charges.
Upon his release from prison, quite a few readers commented about the big sack of books Chris carried from the county jail.
RAVES that he put his time incarcerated to good use and that he read those books and learned a great deal about a few subjects
during his period inside. RANTS that some in the public have taken such cheap shots at him on social media since the jury sent
him home from prison when the trial ended.
In an ideal world, Judge Wagner, who heard the case that ended in Chris's acquittal on homicide charges and release from prison
within a few hours, should demand that IPs be pulled, from ridiculous anonymous Internet posts stating that the jury was
intimidated into finding a not guilty verdict by persons inside the courtroom. Those anonymous, lying writers spreading hateful
misinformation should be exposed and held accountable.
There will always be hateful people, for instance, such as Audrey Ridenour, who did not attend the homicide trial, did not hear the
evidence, witness statements or contradictions, who says about herself on her social media page "God is all I care about," yet
took to social media after the verdict, to take personal swipes, by calling Chris "an evil piece of walking flesh" who deserved to
stay in jail for the rest of his life.
In a nutshell, Ridenour of Masontown felt he deserved such a harsh life sentence because he admitted that he wanted to smoke
pot, wanted to find a woman who smokes pot and because his second shot fired hit the deceased in the back, after the first shot
in the chest caused the man to spin on his feet, pretty much in place.
But the jury, fortunately, followed the law by the book and did not agree with people such as Ridenour, who chose to support the
police, who admitted at trial to not investigating Chris' statement. The tiny, cramped living room did not have enough open space
for the deceased to have taken four or more steps, as the prosecution's star witness claimed happen. The jury knew that.
But people such as Ridenour will pretend the cramped living room had a wider, larger, open space that it did not have for the
deceased to have had space to allow four or more steps to walk away. They weren't present at the trial to hear that a few steps
either way from where the deceased stood when the gun was discharged would have had the deceased man taking four or so
more steps walking atop a television or onto a couch... which, of course, ballistics proved neither happened.
It's time for the nay sayers to shut up and let Chris unwind. Nothing that he has been through has been easy.
For persons such as this editor, who will always rant when a developmentally disabled or retarded person or one with Autism is
incarcerated, in restrictive custody in a prison turtle suit for crying, there's no comfort in knowing that Chris isn't there anymore to
get the word out that someone needs an inpatient psych unit.
We're convinced that not enough staff and/or other inmates will bother to pick up and assume Chris' advocacy role for disabled or
retarded inmates, who should not have been jailed in the first place for sleeping in and missing a hearing or flapping his arms
when being removed from a rental during an eviction.
But Chris on the outside, if and when he's up to it, continuing to advocate for those particular inmates who are disabled and being
abused, now that, too, would be something!