The sister of a man accused of attempted homicide pleaded with the Lycoming County Prison Board at Friday's meeting to meet her brother's physical and mental health needs.
Prison Board solicitor Robin Reed said William Hellenthal has filed 15 to 17 allegations, and that the prison administration has reviewed and investigated all of them and found them to have no merit.
Wendy Pollick, 55, of Berwick, spoke to the board on behalf of her 61-year-old brother, of Beaver Lake, who has been jailed in Lycoming County Prison since Dec. 21, 2012. He initially was jailed in lieu of $1 million, but a county judge later ruled Hellenthal was ineligible for bail due to his flight risk. The case is in pre-trial proceedings; no trial date has been set, and a psychological evaluation may be pending.
Hellenthal's other sister, Esther Tizio, 60, of Camp Hill, wasn't at the meeting, but called the Sun-Gazette to say she is distressed that his needs aren't being met.
"He needs mental help rather than being incarcerated. ... He's been in over eight months now," Tizio said, saying he suffered a nervous breakdown before his incarceration. She noted he is a veteran and may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.
Pollick claims Hellenthal told her directly he was deprived of full medical treatment for his knee after he apparently fell while incarcerated last Feb. 14 and after he fell a second time on May 16, both times apparently due to low blood sugar. She said, according to a May 1 medical report, Hellenthal needs a knee replacement. Pollick later said Hellenthal had knee issues prior to the fall.
"He was deprived of full treatment for his knee," Pollick said.
She also claims there was a discrepancy where his blood sugar levels were recorded: on one handwritten document, it showed his blood sugar was below 42 when he fell the first time and on another document, the levels allegedly were documented only after he was treated, she claimed.
Pollick also said Hellenthal was placed in "lockup" because she alleges another inmate "threw a punch at him." When she saw Hellenthal Thursday, she claims he hadn't had a clean change of clothes since his lockup began 40 days ago.
"We're just wishing for him to be treated like a human being," Pollick said of her brother.
Warden Kevin DeParlos said, "The prison has investigated two disciplinary incidents involving fighting for which he was involved resulting in disciplinary lockup time. The prison administration has also investigated Mr. Hellenthal's allegations that a correctional officer was bringing drugs into the prison and determined them to be false.
"The investigations involved reviewing hours of video tapes from various locations within the prison, interviewing staff and inmates, as well as cell searches for contraband."
Wheeland said the tapes showed Hellenthal instigating two fights.
Tizio, however, said Hellenthal claims the incident began when an inmate was trying to steal his belongings in his cell.
Reed believes it's a miscommunication between Hellenthal and the family, and that Hellenthal may be deliberately miscommunicating to them.
"Here's a family that cares about their family, but the information they got was not correct," Reed said.
Still, Tizio questions the investigation, saying she suspects a cover-up.
"How can they investigate themselves and determine nothing's going on?" Tizio asked.
Tizio said she's had enough. "If this doesn't change, I will go up there and picket. I've contacted the governor, the VA (Veterans Affairs), and they say it's up to the warden. He is not God! I will be damned if they kill my brother over their neglect.
"They treat dogs in a shelter better than they do these prisoners. And it's not just my brother," Tizio claimed.
Commissioner Jeff Wheeland read Pollick a prepared statement regarding the allegations.
"Your brother's actions and complaints are solely motivated by his strong desire to be released from the Lycoming County Prison," Wheeland said. "He initially made complaints of inadequate medical care claiming he needed to be released from the prison to be treated at the veteran's hospital."
Tizio said her brother said he was willing to be put in the VA's mental ward where he could get help, but not get out.
Wheeland continued, "When that did not affect his release, he changed tactics and made allegations of inadequate protection and corruption by the correctional staff - serious allegations for which the prison administration spent many hours investigating and determined to be false."
Wheeland said those allegations arose from two fights that Hellenthal allegedly instigated with two other inmates. "The allegations of corruption by the correctional staff were simply fabricated," he said.
Wheeland further addressed the medical claims.
"Without getting into the specifics of his medical care, suffice it to say that despite what your brother has told you, his medical and other needs are being properly addressed by the prison," he said, adding since his incarceration, Hellenthal has seen a physician once every 13 days on average.
Wheeland acknowledged Hellenthal needs knee surgery, but not at this time, and said he's received "all treatment which the medical professionals have determined to be necessary at this time."
Along with attempted homicide, Hellenthal is charged with two counts of simple assault and one count each of aggravated assault, burglary, felony trespassing, terroristic threats and illegal possession of a firearm.
The charges stem from a Dec. 20, 2012, incident where Hellenthal allegedly fired a shot when he entered the home of his estranged wife, Jean Hellenthal, on Beaver Run Road, Penn Township, violating a Protection from Abuse order. She was at the property with her boyfriend, David Barto, 52, who Hellenthal allegedly threatened to kill.