State tight-lipped about death of inmate suspected of drinking 'homemade brew'

State tight-lipped about death of inmate suspected of drinking 'homemade brew'
Jay David Neugin, an inmate at Tabor Correctional Institution, died Feb. 22, 2014 after reportedly drinking “homemade brew.”

COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - A WECT investigation revealed that state prison officials addressed "supervision issues" at a facility in Columbus County after an inmate died in 2014 after reportedly drinking "homemade brew."

Jay David Neugin was a medium-custody inmate at Tabor Correctional Institution after being convicted in 2012 of manufacturing methamphetamine in Jackson County.

His cellmate notified officers after Neugin "turned sick" Feb. 22 and began throwing up, according to a preliminary death report filed by Columbus County Assistant Coroner William Hannah.

A Tabor City police report stated Neugin, who was 39 years old, complained of having chest pains at 2:30 p.m.

An ambulance took Neugin to a hospital in Loris, SC, where emergency room staff "worked with him for (a) few minutes" before he quit breathing, according to the coroner's report.

The form states Neugin died at 5:45 p.m. Boxes indicating "onset of injury or illness" and "last known to be alive" were left blank. Hannah noted Neugin was suspected of drinking "homemade brew."

After performing an autopsy on Feb. 24, the North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner's Office concluded that Neugin died accidentally due to "methanol toxicity."

The autopsy examination report stated he "reportedly may have been drinking a mixture of hand sanitizer and other unidentified fluids."

"I'm told that hand sanitizer is commonly used in some areas of the prison including medical and food services," said Keith Acree, spokesman for the N.C. Department of Public Safety. "At one time there was a hand sanitizer dispenser in the maintenance area, but that has been removed. Many staff members keep a hand sanitizer bottle in their office for their own use."

DPS conducted an internal investigation into Neugin's death, but the results aren't public record.

"Supervision issues were addressed with the appropriate employees," Acree said.

Gov. Pat McCrory said legal and personnel issues may prevent the department from releasing more information about the investigation.

"But I will say this, that when we're paying $28,000 a year to prison guards in high-security prisons, we've got a major problem," the governor said.

McCrory's proposed budget includes nearly $21 million to phase in a new compensation plan that would pay officers more for working at higher-security facilities. The state has three levels of prisons: minimum, medium and close. But they all pay officers the same pay scale.

"This is the first governor that's going to deal with many of the problems that this state has not addressed in 10-20 years in our state prison system."

Copyright 2015 WECT. All rights reserved.