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3 Murders in 10 Months at Oklahoma Prison Run by CCA

by Joe Watson

Three prisoners were murdered in a span of 10 months at an Oklahoma facility run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest for-profit prison operator in the country.

The trio of homicides occurred at the Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville--one of four Oklahoma state prisons operated by CCA--between October 2014 and August 2015.

Lewis Hamilton, 36, was the most recent of the victims, found stabbed to death at the 1,670 bed Davis prison on August 5. Silas Royal, who is already serving a 25 year sentence for manslaughter, is the main suspect in Hamilton’s murder, according to Oklahoma DOC spokeswoman Terri Watkins.  Hamilton was serving a life sentence for murder.

“We will investigate in full, and then (CCA) will conduct a full investigation,” Watkins said.

In December 2014, Eric Grimm, 28 was also killed at Davis. According to the state medical examiner’s office, Grimm was strangled to death. His cellmate was considered a suspect, but has not yet been charged.

And in October 2014, Tory Czernecki was also strangled to death. The 22 year old was serving a 15 year sentence for first degree rape.  Joshua Wheeler, 25, has since been charged with first degree murder in Czernecki’s death and has been transferred out of the CCA facility in Holdenville and taken to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Watkins said a potential link between the three murders will be “looked at.” But “is somebody trying to connect all of them to one underlying cause?” she said.  “I am not sure if you can do that.”

Oklahoma DOC paid CCA $28.4 million to run the Davis facility in fiscal year 2014, including $58 per prisoner per day at the prison’s maximum security unit and $44 per prisoner per day at Davis’ medium security unit.

Despite Oklahoma’s prisons being over capacity--at about 114%--Watkins said that two of the state prisonos run by CCA would soon be closing. The prison in Holdenville, however, is not one of them.


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