— By CHRISTIN COYNE
Authorities believe sexual contact between a Palo Pinto County jail inmate and a Weatherford man, who was employed as a jailer at the time, occurred on more than one occasion before others in the jail discovered in March what was reportedly occurring.
Terry Lynn Snell, 43, a former jailer in Palo Pinto and Parker counties, was indicted last week by a Palo Pinto grand jury on a state jail felony charge of violating the civil rights of a person in custody. He was arrested Friday by Weatherford police.
State law prohibits a correctional facility employee or peace officer from intentionally engaging in sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a person in custody.
Snell is also facing felony charges regarding a separate investigation by narcotics officers, according to Palo Pinto County officials.
Another inmate witnessed Snell’s behavior and notified the sheriff’s office, Palo Pinto County District Attorney Mike Burns reportedly told the Mineral Wells Index of the civil rights violation allegation.
“The best we can tell, based on the statement from the victim, it happened three to four times, and as soon as we found out about it, he was terminated,” Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer said.
The sheriff’s office also handed the investigation over to the Texas Rangers to avoid any appearance of impropriety, Mercer said.
“We basically had some other jailers that started giving us information on it and we started looking into it,” Mercer said.
“We’ve had several witnesses that saw different things,” Mercer said. “Nothing substantial, but just activities, movements, you know, getting her out of the cell and that kind of stuff. Whether it is mutual or not is beside the point. If she’s a prisoner, that ... can’t go on.”
“We dealt with it as harshly as possible,” Mercer said.
“It happens in every jurisdiction,” Mercer said, adding that jailers are warned against it. “When it happens, it’s unfortunate but we deal with it as correctly and stringently as we possibly can.”
Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler said Snell worked in the Parker County Jail for about seven months but had no disciplinary action taken against him during his employment in Weatherford and resigned his position. According to state records, Snell moved from Parker County to Palo Pinto County Jail in January.
Snell has also been arrested on a charge of possession of a controlled substance, under a gram, and impersonation of a peace officer regarding a separate incident reportedly occurring about three days after his termination.
The City-County Narcotics Unit in Palo Pinto County did a “knock and talk” at a Mineral Wells hotel and found a “scrape bag” with a small amount of methamphetamine in Snell’s possession, according to Mercer.
Witnesses said Snell showed an ID card and was identifying himself as a police officer from a Metroplex law enforcement agency, Mercer said.