LAWSUIT FILED IN DEATH OF WOMAN WHO DROWNED WHILE HANDCUFFED IN BACK OF MEIGS COUNTY PATROL CAR

A federal lawsuit has been filed by the husband of a Meigs County woman who drowned while handcuffed in the back of a sheriff deputy’s patrol car.

Authorities say 35-year-old Tabitha Smith Colbaugh and Meigs County Deputy Robert Leonard both died in February 2024 when Leonard drove his patrol car into the Tennessee River in the middle of the night on Blythe Ferry Road.

Deputy Leonard arrested Colbaugh and transported her to jail.

Leonard got lost and drove into the river.

Both Deputy Leonard and Colbaugh were killed. Deputy Leonard had been with the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office for just a few months.

Colbaugh’s widower, Kenneth Andrew Colbaugh, claims in the lawsuit the county was negligent.

Documents state Meigs County failed to adequately post proper warning signs near the river drop-off on Blythe Ferry Road.

The lawsuit also indicates Deputy Leonard at some point on his return to the sheriff’s office texted his wife while driving, letting her know he had made an arrest. The lawsuit points out texting is against the law in Tennessee.

The lawsuit calls his training inadequate.

The documents allege a violation of civil rights, wrongful death, gross negligence, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

To see the full lawsuit, click on the following:

meigs lawsuit

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