This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can call or text the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
Anne Collins last heard from her old neighbor Dennis Green in early September. He showed up at her door, down on his luck, telling her he’d just been beaten up and had no place to stay. “He said he was ready to commit suicide,” Collins said.
Green and his wife Tara, lived across the alley from Collins in downtown Gillette for five years until they were evicted about a year ago.
“It really sent them in a horrible tailspin,” Collins said.
When Dennis reached out a month ago, Collins said, she was eager to help.
After a few calls to local organizations and a neighborhood church, who according to Collins all said they couldn’t help provide housing for the Greens and their three dogs, she set the couple up for a few nights at a local motel on her own dime.
Several weeks later Collins found a note from Tara Green on her door.
“Dennis hung himself in a holding cell at the courthouse,” it read.
Collins immediately called Tara Green, and together they’ve been struggling to get more information about what happened to Dennis and why he wasn’t being monitored more closely.
“I think the system failed Dennis,” Collins said.
“After appearing in court on 9/21/23, a judge ordered Mr. Green to the custody of Campbell County Sheriff’s Office,” Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds told WyoFile in an email. “Shortly thereafter, Mr. Green suffered a medical emergency while in custody at the courthouse and was transported by EMS to the hospital.”
That was all the undersheriff was willing to share, explaining that Green’s death is currently under investigation by the Gillette Police Department.
“Because of the nature of the incident,” Reynolds wrote, “it is customary for Campbell County Sheriff’s Office to request the assistance of another law enforcement agency to commence an investigation.”
The sheriff’s office did not respond to WyoFile’s inquiry about why the Gillette Police Department is conducting the investigation as opposed to a more independent entity like the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. The state agency has the authority to review in-custody deaths upon request.
“I think it’s too bad that DCI isn’t involved,” Collins said. She’s concerned about Gillette police investigating the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office. “You’re basically having one team member investigate another team member,” Collins said, “and I don’t think you get a great investigation that way.”
Gillette Police Department Deputy Chief Brent Wasson confirmed an investigation into Green’s “apparent suicide” is underway.
Gillette police officers responded to the Campbell County Courthouse on Sept. 21 at 9:43 a.m., according to Wasson. Green “was transferred to the hospital and later transferred to Casper, where he passed away on Sept. 23.”
Dennis Green died exactly one month shy of his 59th birthday.
The last time Tara said she saw Dennis was when they went to the Campbell County Courthouse together the morning of Sept. 21.
Dennis, who was facing an aggravated assault charge, was in court for a bond violation and a change of plea hearing, according to his attorney, Zachary Leininger, a part-time public defender.
When Green changed his plea to guilty that morning, “it wasn’t a guarantee that he would be sentenced to prison, but it was a possibility,” Leininger said.
Tara said the hearing took less than 30 minutes and concluded with Dennis being taken into Campbell County Sheriff’s Office custody. Immediately upon leaving the courthouse, Tara said, she called the Campbell County Detention Center.
“I told them when Dennis Green arrives I want him on suicide watch,” Tara said. She was worried about him being suicidal, and whoever answered the phone at the detention center said, “OK, we will take care of it,” she said.
But Dennis never made it to the detention center. Less than an hour after his appearance before the judge, while still in a holding cell at the courthouse, Dennis was in the midst of what the sheriff’s office called a “medical emergency.”
Tara and her sister-in-law DeBar Green believe Dennis hanged himself. They say that’s what they were told by medical providers at the hospital.
Their calls to the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office for more information have gone unanswered, DeBar and Tara say.
“I feel sick about it,” Collins said. “It’s important for the public to know that this is possible,” referring to suicides in county detention facilities.
“He was a really good guy,” Collins said. “He just had some problems, you know, he would drink too much and I know he had run-ins with the police, but I don’t think anybody ever looked deeper to see why.”
Collins believes the root of Green’s struggle stems back to a logging accident he had at age 17 while working for the state of Wyoming that left him with lifelong pain.
A recent WyoFile investigation found that suicide is the leading cause of death in Wyoming’s county jails.
When asked what the state could do to reduce in-custody suicides, Gov. Mark Gordon pointed to a pilot diversion program in Campbell County as a possible part of a solution.
The program “will help keep individuals with mental health conditions out of jail, instead directing them to available mental health services,” the governor said in a prepared statement.
Gordon’s office did not respond by press time to WyoFile’s request for comment about Green’s death — the state’s most recent jail suicide — and whether he’d request a DCI investigation.