Merrill man dies of natural causes in Lincoln County Jail, autopsy finds

By Tina L. Scott

MMC Staff

MERRILL – A Merrill man died while in custody at the Lincoln County Jail on Saturday, April 27.

According to an independent investigation conducted by the Langlade County Sheriff’s Office, Terrence Andrew Wiegel, 68, of Merrill, was found unresponsive in a holding cell in the booking area of the Lincoln County Jail just after 4 p.m. on April 27 by a corrections officer, shortly after his evening meal tray was served. He was found lying on his bunk, but did not respond when the officer called out to him.

The officer immediately entered the cell and shook him, then radioed for assistance and began CPR. Additional corrections officers arrived to assist with lifesaving measures, which included use of an AED device, and emergency medical services arrived on scene within six minutes of finding the man and continued CPR for another 11 minutes. However, life-saving measures ultimately proved unsuccessful.

The Langlade County deputy’s report indicated that, per his review of video evidence in the investigation, Wiegel had been routinely checked on by a corrections officer and found to be lying down on his mattress on his bunk and breathing at 2:59 p.m., but it appears he may have had a medical incident just minutes later, after the corrections officer had left the area.

Wiegel had been in the most secured section of the jail, a holding cell by himself, with a camera, the deputy said.

Wiegel had been arrested and booked into the Lincoln County Jail the prior night at approximately 9:32 p.m. on Friday, April 26, on a charge of theft of mail.

The Langlade County deputy investigating the incident reported, “I was told inmates are typically kept in holding cells in booking for 24 hours before being moved to general population. Terrence had been in the same holding cell since he was booked in. There was video footage of that holding cell for the entire time that Terrence had been incarcerated. I reviewed the video footage of the holding cell from the time Terrence got booked in until after EMS left.”

Wiegel was the only person incarcerated in the holding cell from the time of his booking until the time of his death.

At the time of his booking, according to the paperwork, Wiegel “did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he was brought in. Terrence did not appear to have any major medical concerns. Terrence had stated he had a sinus infection and asthma.”

Corrections officers reported Wiegel had been cooperative during booking and had at various times said he had “a hard time breathing, but stated Terrence had been very talkative and seemed okay.”

Wiegel met with the Jail nurse, but he declined to use the inhaler he brought with him and had only taken Tylenol during his time in the holding cell.

Immediately following the death, the scene was taped off, Lincoln County Coroner Valerie Caylor responded to perform her duties, and the Langlade County Sheriff’s Office came in to do an independent investigation. The Langlade County deputy was on scene at approximately 6 p.m.

“With the death of anyone in our jail, per policy and standard procedures we have an outside agency conduct an investigation,” Grant Peterson said on behalf of Lincoln County. “In this particular case, we requested the Langlade County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the matter.”

Peterson said while the matter was being actively investigated by Langlade County, Lincoln County had opted not to release any information “so as not to interfere with their investigation.”

Wiegel was transported to Madison for an autopsy by Caylor and provided her preliminary findings and diagnoses report dated April 30 to Langlade County. According to that report, the autopsy determined the cause of death as natural, pending blood test results.

“She confirmed no trauma to indicate Wiegel was victim to a crime. She specifically noted cardiac and pulmonary issues,” the report said of the forensic pathologist who had conducted the autopsy in her presence.

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