An internal investigation by the Newton County Sheriff's Office into an inappropriate relationship between a jailer and convicted murderer Cobey Wade Lakemper has resulted in the termination of the jailer's supervisor.
According to Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown, detention officers were conducting security checks in December and investigating an incident involving Lakemper when they learned about an apparent relationship between Lakemper and Jacquelyn Sims, a former detention officer who had lost her job in a budget cut in July 2010. Her supervisor, Sgt. Deborah Pilgrim, had apparently known of the relationship but not reported it.
Lakemper in his trial in April testified that he had become involved in a relationship of sorts with Sims. According to him, their relationship involved intimate physical contact, the exchange of sexually explicit letters and, eventually, blackmail on his part of Sims. While her testimony differed slightly, she did admit to allowing Lakemper to touch her and to exchanging letters with him by mailing them to his mother in Missouri, who would then send them to him at the jail.
A letter from Lakemper was introduced into evidence in trial where he called Sims "pretty witch" and Pilgrim "cool witch" - a play on a television show they all enjoyed called "Charmed."
Pilgrim, who had worked at the jail since 2003, was released on April 15.
The internal investigation found, according to Brown, that Pilgrim violation her oath of office for a detention officer, failed to meet job performance standards (including negligence in performing assigned duties, inefficiency, misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance) and engaging in conduct that could reflect discredit on or bring disrepute to the county and sheriff's office.
"Sergeant Deborah Pilgrim was found to possess knowledge of the relationship between Sims and Lakemper," said Brown. "No other officers were implicated as a result of the comprehensive investigation. A decision was made to hold off on any further action against Sims and Pilgrim until the murder trial was over... Had anyone else been identified we would proceed forward with their termination."
Pilgrim has filed an appeal concerning her termination.
No decision has been made on whether any charges will be filed against Sims or Pilgrim, Brown said.
"This was a very unfortunate incident that tarnished the reputation of two employees in particular, and the Newton County Sheriff's Office, in general," said Brown. "I am proud to say that measures are in place to ensure that persons in our employ will only exhibit appropriate behaviors and maintain professional relationships with inmates in our detention center. As a result of this situation, we have installed additional cameras and are asking for additional employees to staff the jail."