Fairfax County Chief Deputy Sheriff M. Wayne Huggins last year ordered a dead prisoner's cell cleaned up before police examined the scene, according to papers filed yesterday in a federal court.
Huggins' action prompltly drew criticism yesterday from two of his opponents in next Tuesday's hotly contested race for sheriff in Fairfax County. Christopher Stokes, and independent, said Huggins acted "unprofessionally," and Kenneth R. Wilson, a Democrat, said Huggins "violated police procedure by his actions."
Huggins' steps were disclosed in a depostion he gave in connection with a $2 million wrongful death suit filed by relatives of Phyllis Sanders, who died in the Fairfax County jail on July 22, 1978. Huggins, a Republican, Sheriff James M. Swinson, and other county officials have been named as defendants in the suit. They have said they are innocent of any wrong doing.
Huggins stated in the 57-page deposition filed yesterday in Alexandria that he regarded himself as "the appropriate investigator" and ordered water on her cell floor cleaned up after he found "no suspicious circumstances" surrounding her death.
The lawsuit claims that huggins and other officials "conspired" to "withhold and destroy evidence" concerning Sanders' death. Sanders had been placed in solitary confinement after she was involved in an automobile accident and arrested for speeding, according to court papers.
Sanders died after vomiting, fainting and losing control of her bladder, according to court papers.
The treatment of prisoners in the county jail, which the sheriff runs, has been a key issue in the political campaign. Some of the candidates have cited the Sanders death as an example of problems there.
Democrat Wilson said Huggins "had no authority to investigate the matter. That was the responsibilty of the county police department, Wilson said.
Huggins, a former state police officer, responded, "I am the police . . . I was the investigating officer" on the scene. He said he called police after being ordered to by Swinson.