By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
Dawson County Detention Center death case closed by GBI, case files to be released in 45 days
Dawson County Detention Center

The investigation into the death of an 18-year-old Dawson County man at the Dawson County Detention Center earlier this year is officially closed. Its findings will not be available for another 45 days, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

In an email to the Dawson County News on Wednesday, Sept. 16, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Kimberly Williams confirmed the agency’s investigation into Jonathan Sanford's death has been reviewed by the Dawson County District Attorney’s Office and the case is now officially closed. 

Before the official closure of the death investigation, GBI Public Affairs Director Nelly Miles announced in July that state medical examiners had ruled that Sanford's death is attributed to "combined drug intoxication" and was accidental. 

So far no documents surrounding the case, including the GBI’s investigative case file, have been released to the public. 

In response to an Open Records Request filed by the Dawson County News this week, a GBI records employee stated it will take approximately 45 days for publicly accessible documents in the case to be reviewed and redacted for public release. Agencies have three days to respond to open records requests with an estimated time and cost to fulfill the request or a legal reason the request cannot be fulfilled.  

When asked whether his office could share details on the GBI’s findings in the case, Dawson County District Attorney Lee Darragh said he would withhold comment until a formal closing letter is issued to the GBI next week. 

Additionally, Darragh declined to comment on whether his office would be taking any action in the case. 

The Dawson County News has also filed an Open Records Request with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office for all documents and files associated with Sanford’s death, but has not yet received a response. 

An incident report obtained through a previous open records request showed that Sanford was arrested on Tuesday, June 1, for a narcotics charge and for DUI Drugs. 

Prior to Sanford’s arrest, the report states that Dawson County deputies were searching for a possible impaired driver identified by a witness several hours earlier, and after a traffic stop at 378 Marketplace Parkway in south Dawson County, the teen was taken into custody. 

According to Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson, Sanford was later found lying unresponsive in his cell by an officer who was conducting a check in the detention center. Authorities have so far not been able to provide the DCN with an exact timeline of when Sanford’s was placed under arrest and the hours leading up to his body’s discovery. 

Following Sanford’s death, the GBI was called to lead an investigation into the incident. Shortly after, Forsyth County attorney AJ Richman announced that the Sanford family would be conducting an independent investigation into the teen's death.

Neither Johnson nor Richman had responded to the DCN’s requests for comment as of Friday afternoon.

Be local. Be informed.

We know credible local information is crucial now more than ever. Please subscribe to keep reading and to support our work.


Not ready to subscribe? DONATE.