COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio placed a juvenile prison guard on paid leave Wednesday amid media attention over the homicide of the 2-year-old son of his one-time girlfriend.
The Department of Youth Services said in a letter to Alan Aeschlimann that inquiries to agency officials and parents of imprisoned youth were affecting daily operations at headquarters and at Indian River Juvenile Correctional Facility in Massillon. Department spokeswoman Kim Parsell said the questions involve the Oct. 21 beating death of Bri'Sean Gamble in Stark County in northeast Ohio.
The boy's paternal grandmother, Phyllis Wheat of Atlanta, told The Associated Press that Aeschlimann was living with the boy's mother at the time. Messages seeking comment were left for Aeschlimann at his home and through the union representing juvenile prison guards.
Last month, a Youth Services lawyer asked the assistant prosecutor handling Gamble's death for any record identifying Aeschlimann as a suspect.
"Specifically, I am seeking any law enforcement record that identifies him as a `suspect' or `person of interest,"' Anthony Pierson, Youth Services chief counsel, said in a June 27 email to Stark County assistant prosecutor Chryssa Hartnett, obtained by the AP through an open records request.
Harnett has not responded to the agency, and did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.
A supplemental death certificate signed by the Stark County coroner says Gamble died of "massive blunt impact injuries" to his head and neck and listed the manner of death as "homicide." The coroner's office said this week the case was under investigation and no information was available.
Parsell said Wednesday the agency's top priority was providing a safe and rehabilitative environment for youth.
"So I wouldn't want the public to think that for any reason that we don't care about situations like this," she said.
Aeschlimann, 31, was hired in 2008, according to his personnel file, obtained through a records request. His application said he had experience working with children and had coached high school wrestling for three years.
He also worked a second job as a "professional athlete" doing "mixed martial arts" events up to three times a year, according to a March 2, 2011, form in his personnel file.
State records show Aeschlimann was investigated by the agency previously.
The state in June 2009 cleared him of allegations that procedures for restraining youth were violated as he came to a fellow guard's aid the month before as youths attacked the other guard.
In 2010, the state determined Aeschlimann violated procedures by not making regular 30-minute checks on Dec. 26, 2009, during a time when one youth ran from his cell at Indian River and tried to assault another, records show.
Last year, Aeschlimann was suspended five days for a July 2011 incident in which he used a prohibited hold on a youth, during which the juvenile began gasping, according to DYS records.
In January, Aeschlimann was cleared of allegations that he broke a youth's wrist Dec. 26, 2011 while trying to restrain the teen during a fight with another juvenile, records show. And in April, Aeschlimann was cleared of allegations he inappropriately restrained an unruly young person March 26 who was ransacking a common area.
The way that Aeschlimann grabbed the youth "is not a recognized technique," according to Youth Service records. However, "Evidence does not indicate that Mr. Aeschlimann had any malicious intent," the records say, adding that Aeschlimann took appropriate action to restrain the youth and keep him from elbowing Aeschlimann in the head.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus .