Get to know Grand Rapids (and the world)

Russ, jail guard

Last week, I didn’t really talk to Jeff about his job at the jail. So Tuesday night, I took the opportunity to talk to another new jail buddy, Russ, to talk about his job.

Russ works in the mental health ward at the jail. He sits in the enclosed area with the inmates. Earlier in the day, he took a chair to the head while breaking up a fight.

“It’s usually best to just let it go,” he said. “But you never want to see someone get hit with a chair. Bad news.”

I’ve known Russ for a few months now. Every time I see him, he likes to share stories of his job. It doesn’t sound all that bad. But Tuesday we ended up talking about the inmates that scared even him, a 21-year jail veteran who is physically imposing.

The first was Federico Cruz. In 1996, he was worried that his friend’s marijuana field was about to be discovered by the cops. So he killed his friend, decapitated him and took his head back to his bedroom.

He then videotaped himself talking to his friend while skinning the head. After it was done, he placed it in a plastic bag outside his window. About a week later, law enforcement connected the dots and brought him down.

Despite being only 17, Russ said that Federico was a solid man. He didn’t want to be alone with him. They still have the video, apparently.

“That’s the stuff of nightmares,” he said. “One time is enough.”

Cruz is now in prison for life.

That’s when Russ said his one piece of advice to new hires is trust the voice in the back of your head. He said you know when something is off, and you need to trust it in that situation.

That’s when he told me the story of a man who stalked a girl and murdered her in Manistee National Forest. He was smart, but not all there.

He went through mental evaluations, twice, who said he was fine and to put him in a single man cell, rather than Russ’ area. But Russ kept saying no.

Eventually, the jail received a call. It was his wife, saying her husband called and told her he was going to commit suicide. They then kept him under 24-hour surveillance.

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