By MARK THOMASON, Publisher
The family of 23-year-old local, Christopher Michael Verner is searching for answers. Verner passed away August 27 after suffering severe head injuries, it appears were obtained while in custody at Fannin County Jail. He leaves behind a one-year-old daughter, Kylee.
This tragedy began when Verner was arrested February 12, 2016 for driving on an expired license. As a participant of Judge Brenda Weaver’s mental health court, the traffic charge violated his accountability court guidelines. The violation required that he serve a short stint in the state prison, being sentenced to complete an integrated therapeutic program offered at several state facilities. However, six months after the ticket, Verner had yet to be transferred and remained housed in Fannin County Jail.
Sources have told the Focus that on August 14, Verner was attacked by another inmate in Fannin’s jail, reportedly being struck in the head multiple times. In an interview with Verner’s parents, Eddie and Melissa Verner, Melissa told the Focus that she had spoken with the lieutenant on duty at Fannin County Jail August 15, who confirmed that a fight had taken place between Christopher and a another inmate. The lieutenant she stated told her by phone that a padlock had been used to inflict the head injuries on Christopher. Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby also contacted her by telephone, informing her he had conducted an interview with Christopher the morning following the fight. Christopher reportedly did not reveal the identity of his attacker but Kirby told Mrs.Verner his department had the altercation recorded on video. When Kirby was asked if the video could be seen, Mrs.Verner told the Focus that he denied access to view it. Christopher’s parents seemed troubled by the fact that time was allotted to conduct an interview but no medical treatment seems to have been offered.
Less than 24 hours after the incident, Fannin County Sheriff’s Department decided to transfer Verner to Appling Detention Center, near Savannah, for the remainder of his sentence. Fannin County Deputy Jack Queen transported Verner by patrol car. At time of transfer from Fannin County, close friends and family told the Focus that Christopher was complaining of severe headaches and a burning pain in his head.
After several days in the Appling facility, Verner is reported to have collapsed. He was then taken to Appling County Hospital by prison staff to be treated. Doctors at the hospital immediately called for medi-vac, or a life flight helicopter, and he was flown to Savannah Memorial Hospital. After undergoing brain surgery, due to internal swelling and bleeding, Christopher passed away August 27.
Christopher’s parents have told the Focus that shortly following his death, Sheriff Kirby instructed then to remain quiet, and to not discuss his passing publicly. Kirby (despite reportedly never offering medical treatment after the altercation) offered to cover the funeral costs for the family. The Focus has filed request to see if this cost was paid by Kirby personally or with county funds.
The Focus has also filed requests for copies of the cell fight video footage, intake forms, medical complaint forms, transfer sheets, and any other documentation relating to Verner. Kirby has told the Focus that the GBI is investigating and GBI Agent Kim Williams has confirmed with the Focus the agency is, in fact, conducting an active investigation. Look for updates on the Focus social media sites as we will be continuing to report details as they are released.