Former Rhea County, Tennessee, executive dies in federal prison; lawyer investigating possible assault

  photo  Staff photo / Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, right, appears with Rhea County Executive George Thacker in January 2019 to announce the arrival of a manufacturing business in Dayton, Tenn.

Federal prison officials confirmed Tuesday that former Rhea County Executive George Thacker died in custody Monday at a federal prison in South Carolina, where he had been incarcerated less than three weeks.

“For safety, security and privacy reasons, this office does not share specifics regarding the cause of death of any inmate. The official cause of death is determined by the medical examiner and not the Bureau of Prisons,” Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesperson Emery Nelson said Tuesday in an email.

The Edgefield County Coroner’s Office is performing an examination, Nelson said. A call Tuesday seeking details of Thacker’s death from Coroner David Burnett was not immediately returned.

Thacker’s lawyer, Chattanooga attorney Lee Davis, said he is investigating the death and looking into allegations of a possible assault at Federal Correctional Institution Edgefield, which is situated near the state line about halfway between Columbia, South Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia.

“It has been reported to me that Mr. George Thacker died yesterday at FCI Edgefield South Carolina,” Davis said by email. “I am investigating the cause and manner of death. Family reports that it was the result of injuries sustained where he was the victim of an assault. I am inquiring as to the facts and circumstances concerning these tragic events.”

(READ MORE: Rhea County executive pleads guilty, resigns post in federal wire fraud case)

Federal inmate records for Thacker show him deceased on Dec. 26 but a time of day was not given.

Edgefield is a medium security prison with an adjacent minimum security satellite camp, according to the federal prison’s website. According to federal court records, Thacker had been incarcerated

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