Santiago faces new charge over jail incident 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Joseph Santiago, the Carroll County man who is charged with capital murder in the grisly 2017 slaying of his autistic older brother, faces a new felony charge in connection with an incident at the county jail.

Santiago, 19, is charged with impairing the operations of a vital public facility, a Class C felony. He was scheduled to appear Monday, June 18, in Carroll County Circuit Court, but the hearing was continued.

The new charge stems from an alleged incident on the night of Tuesday, May 8, at the Carroll County Detention Center.

Detention officer Ryan Loftis writes in an affidavit that he was operating the detention center’s central control room when he heard a loud noise at around 11:06 p.m. Loftis said he then saw on camera that a black liquid was spraying all over a cell in one of the jail’s pods.

Loftis and five other detention officers went to the pod, he writes in the affidavit, and he opened the cell door and Santiago came out of the cell and lay on the ground. Another inmate also came out of the cell and was escorted to the jail’s booking area along with Santiago.

Loftis writes that he was advised by another detention officer that there might be a fire inside Santiago’s cell. Loftis and the officer sprayed fire extinguishers inside the cell, and Loftis requested assistance from the Berryville Fire Department to clear the cell, the affidavit says.

Upon returning to the pod to assess the situation, Loftis writes that he discovered the pod was flooded with water from a sprinkler.

Fire department personnel found no fire inside Santiago’s cell and detention officers checked the remainder of the building and determined there was no fire or smoke inside the jail.

A new sprinkler was installed inside Santiago’s cell and Loftis found parts of the old sprinkler underneath the bed, the affidavit says. 

Loftis writes that he and the other detention officer observed trash in the toilet bowl, a comb in the sink that might have been used for prying, multiple pieces of shredded cloth and foam stuffed inside a plastic cup from the jail kitchen and a cup from the jail commissary containing a yellow liquid.

Loftis and the other detention officer then helped Act 309 inmates clean up the water, which had flooded all of one pod and part of another, the affidavit says.

The next day, Loftis writes, he was notified that recordings from the camera in Santiago’s cell were available for viewing. The footage shows Santiago climbing the ladder on the cell’s bed and placing a towel near the ceiling, according to the affidavit.

“Santiago spends several seconds with the towel at the ceiling,” Loftis writes. “At time stamp 23:05:45, the sprinkler is broken by Santiago and begins to spray black water all over the cell. Santiago then steps back down the ladder and goes to stand by the door to (the cell.)”

Santiago had his first judicial appearance on May 17. District Judge Dale Ramsey found probable cause to charge Santiago and set bond at $10,000.

Santiago remains in the Carroll County Detention Center, where he is being held without bond on charges of capital murder, attempted capital murder and arson. He is accused of killing his older brother, Alex Santiago, in January 2017 inside a mobile home in the Grandview area northwest of Berryville. Santiago allegedly admitted to investigators that he killed his brother with a baseball bat and sword. The attempted capital murder and arson charges apparently stem from an April 2016 incident at the family’s home. Santiago allegedly told investigators that he locked his brother in his room and poured gasoline on the floor before setting the home on fire.

Santiago was 17 at the time of his brother’s death but turned 18 approximately three weeks later. Prosecutors said from the outset that they intended to charge Santiago as an adult, and he was transferred from a juvenile facility to the county jail on the day of his 18th birthday.

Carroll County Circuit Judge Scott Jackson in April scheduled Santiago to go on trial beginning Aug. 27 in Eureka Springs. However, Santiago’s attorneys filed a flurry of motions in mid-May — including a request to transfer the case to juvenile court. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for July 20 and could affect the timing of a trial.

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