Family wants answers in prison death

The family of a Washington County man convicted of murder is hoping for more answers about his recent death in an Ohio prison.

Noal Quattlebaum, 26, died Tuesday in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, less than five years into his sentence of 15 years to life for the 2008 killing of his girlfriend, 21-year-old Amber Wesley.

Prison officials are calling the death an apparent suicide, but Quattlebaum’s family is reserving judgment.

“Some institutions try to save face. We’ll know more when we get the autopsy,” said Quattlebaum’s father, Mark.

Warden’s Assistant Larry Greene said the possibility of homicide has been ruled out. Noal apparently hanged himself, he said.

The prison will be conducting a review of policies and procedures as they always do in the wake of a death, he added.

Ohio prisons practice a variety of measures designed to prevent suicides or acts of violence, said Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman JoEllen Smith.

The last suicide in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility was in December, she said.

Smith referred to the department’s suicide prevention policy which outlines methods for screening inmates for mental health issues, including providing counseling and putting at-risk inmates under close or constant watch.

Additionally the policy states that fixtures that could pose a risk for hanging should be covered with a fine mesh.

Greene said those at the prison were not authorized to say whether Quattlebaum had previously exhibited signs of depression or suicide.

When Mark Quattlebaum spoke to Noal just hours before his death on Tuesday, he remembers his son being his usual “jolly self.”

“He was talking about how well he was doing, what he was going to watch on TV that night,” recalled Mark.

Mark and his wife, Felicia, spoke to their son weekly while he was in prison.

Noal was sentenced to prison in February 2009, seven months after Wesley was found strangled and wrapped in a blanket in the Lang Farm Road home the couple shared.

Wesley left behind two daughters, now ages 5 and 6. Noal was the younger girl’s father.

“His daughter, not only has she lost her mother, now she’s lost a father, too,” said Mark Quattlebaum.

The Quattlebaums are planning a private memorial service for family and friends, many of whom sent Noal cards and letters during his incarceration, he said.

Like his family, Noal’s friends say they will remember him as the person they knew before the crime he committed.

“He would help you out in any way possible,” said Nikita Wolfe, 24, who was a grade below Noal in school in the Frontier Local school district.

Wolfe sent Noal a birthday card last year and kept in contact with his father, she said.

Schoolmate Amanda Cochran, 28, recalled Noal standing up to school bullies.

“He wouldn’t get into a fight with them, but he’d tell them to back off and leave people alone,” she said.

Cochran recalled being shocked when news of the murder surfaced.

“I thought there’s at least two sides to every story,” she said.

While Noal’s parents do not deny his guilt in Wesley’s death, they say they don’t believe he intended to kill Wesley.

“We knew it was an accident. He loved Amber and he still did to the day he died. They had problems,” said Mark Quattlebaum.

Wesley’s mother, Carol Alsept, of Beverly, said she was relieved to hear of the death of her daughter’s killer.

“I miss her more in the summertime because she loved hummingbirds,” Alsept said of her daughter.

Friends have told Alsept that Noal’s death means justice for Wesley, but she disagrees.

“No, she never got justice. But it is peace of mind,” she said.