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Jail Officer Suspended After Penning 'Graphic' Letters To Inmate

CHICAGO (STMW) -- The Cook County Sheriff's office has suspended a high-ranking jail officer who kept up a secret relationship with a female inmate awaiting trial for the alleged murder of her 6-year-old daughter.

Lt. Christopher Young sent several "exceptionally graphic" letters to the inmate and deposited money in her jail commissary account, said Cara Smith, chief of policy and communications for the sheriff's office.

Young, who has been with the department since 1998 and was promoted to lieutenant two years ago, was suspended without pay earlier this month, Smith said. The sheriff's office will seek Young's termination when he appears before the sheriff's merit board in the near future, Smith said.

The inmate, Patrice Garner, has been in jail since early 2006, accused of feeding her daughter a lethal dose of antidepressants at Garner's home in suburban Dolton. At the time of Garner's arrest, investigators said the case might have been a murder-attempted suicide. Authorities said that Garner, then a certified public accountant, and her husband, a physician, had been having marital problems.

On the outside, Garner and Young knew each other from church and at some point in the early 2000s had a romantic affair, a source familiar with the case said.

The two reconnected when Young was doing a presentation in the jail, Smith said.

"They recognized each other, and the detainee sends (Young) a letter," Smith said. "They initiate a relationship, sending letters back and forth."

The relationship, which was not physical inside the jail, came to light in early July, as part of the routine monitoring of inmates' phone calls, Smith said.

"Several days later, a search of her cell found letters between the two, many exceptionally graphic," Smith said.

Reached on a cell phone, Young's son said his father was unavailable for comment Monday.

Young's disciplinary record shows that on June 18 he was given a written reprimand for failure to perform an assigned task, according to Smith.

"Seeking termination of a high-ranking corrections official is fortunately not commonplace," Smith said.

Though Young has broken no known laws, he violated the rules of conduct for sheriffs' employees, Smith said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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