Woman who broke her arm to get out of jail ordered to pay $24k for medical bill

Jeff Bobo • Jun 26, 2013 at 12:56 PM

ROGERSVILLE — A woman who believed that jail inmates with serious injuries get released from custody was ordered last week to pay the $24,726 medical bill she ran up for the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office after she had a fellow inmate break her arm intentionally.

Kelli Elizabeth Howard, 41, 107 McGee Lane, Mount Carmel, was originally charged with aggravated assault, domestic assault, possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting arrest and public intoxication on Nov. 7, 2012 after she pointed a two shot Derringer pistol at her mother and threatened to kill her during an altercation.

Howard was released on bond that same day, but that bond was revoked Dec. 12, 2012, and she remained held in the Hawkins County Jail without bond until a court appearance Thursday.

HCSO Chief Deputy Tony Allen told the Times-News Tuesday that Howard was under the false impression that inmates with serious illnesses or injuries are released from jail so that the county doesn’t have to pay their medical bills.

Allen noted that in the past misdemeanor inmates have been furloughed with permission of the judge to have medical procedures completed, but they are also given a date after their recovery to return to jail and complete their sentence.

Only one time has a felony inmate been released on medical furlough, and that was a driving offender, not a violent offender.

On Jan. 4 Howard recruited fellow inmate, Ashley Ann Russell, to intentionally break her arm to get Howard out of jail. For her part in the scheme Russell was paid some of Howard’s jail commissary.

Russell, 23, 5985 Route 66-N, Rogersville, made headlines last year after leading Rogersville police Chief Doug Nelson on a foot chase through much of downtown Rogersville after an attempted bank forgery; as well as in 2011 when she falsely testified before Criminal Judge John Dugger that she was pregnant during a guilty plea on earlier forgery charges.

The women rolled up towels, placed them on the floor, and Howard placed her forearm on the towels to lift it up from the floor.

Russell then stomped on Howard’s arm with both feet so that the towel would cause the forearm to break in the center.

“She didn’t just break her arm,” Allen said. “She actually shattered both bones in her forearm. The bone never did come out of the skin, but it was disfigured. There was no support. The forearm was just dangling.”

Allen added, “Ms. Howard told correctional officers that she had fallen and tried to catch herself on the toilet with her arms, and broke her left arm. Ms. Howard also told the medical staff at the emergency room that she had fallen because routinely she gets dizzy and falls. After reviewing the video footage from the jail, interviewing the inmates, (it was revealed) Ms. Howard did not fall.”

Russell, who was not charged, admitted the scheme to Detective Daniel Byington.

Initially Howard refused to answer questions about the arm breaking scheme. Allen said she eventually gave Byington a statement admitting to the scheme.

Allen said the broken arm did get Howard out of jail for about a day and a half for surgery. Allen added that Howard had a fairly uncomfortable month of recovery in the jail, however.

On Thursday Howard pleaded guilty before Judge John Dugger to the original aggravated assault charge. She was sentenced to three years, with 120 days to actually serve in jail.

She also pleaded guilty to one count of felony filing a false report in connection with the arm breaking scheme and was sentenced to a consecutive two years, with another 120 days to actually serve in jail.

Aside from the $24,726 in restitution, Howard was fined $575. She was released from jail for time served Thursday, and will serve the remainder of her five year sentence on supervised probation.

Monday night the Hawkins County Commission begrudgingly approved a budget amendment for the sheriff’s office to pay the hospital for Howard’s surgery.

Allen said Monday that the county taxpayers will get their money back from Howard eventually.

“Any medical bills that result from a pre-existing condition or self-inflicted injury is charged back to the inmate,” Allen said. “But, it looks like the taxpayers are going to have to go ahead and pay this bill and wait for restitution from this woman.”

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