News in Brief
Alabama: A state Department of Corrections (DOC) guard in Birmingham was arrested on March 9, 2022, for allegedly beating a prisoner to death, according to the Alabama Political Reporter. As PLN previously reported, prison officials at first insisted no foul play was suspected in the death of Victor Russo, 60, on February 27, 2022, three days after he was discovered unresponsive in his cell at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility. [See: PLN, Apr. 2022, p.1.] As it turned out, though, Russo wrote a letter the day before he was found dead, accusing guard Mohammad Jenkins of beating him and spraying a chemical agent in his mouth a week earlier. Jenkins is now charged with second-degree assault.
Arkansas: Officer.com reported that a jail guard participating in a welfare check at an Arkansas home was shot and killed on February 27, 2022. The deceased, Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Caudell, 27, was pulled from duty at the Pulaski County Jail to join a team responding to shots fired at the home of a woman who failed to report to work. More shots rang out, and Caudell was struck. He was taken to a hospital, where he died hours later, leaving a wife and three children. A suspect, Denmark Lee Jordan, 37, was caught on March 1, 2022.
California: The Los Angeles Times reported that a 19-year-old sentenced in 2021 to life in prison for murdering a romantic rival was himself murdered by two fellow prisoners at High Desert State Prison on February 18, 2022. Guards saw the two, Christopher Dolan, 30, and Michael Ellison, 39, attack Michael Hastey with a makeshift knife in the prison exercise yard. He died later that day. He was serving time for the 2019 murder of Nathan Purdue, 28, after learning Purdue had kissed Hastey’s 17-year-old girlfriend. Hastey was 16 at the time. His death is being investigated as a homicide by the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office. Dolan is serving a six-year sentence for assault and resisting an officer in Ventura County. Ellison is serving a life sentence for the fatal beating of a homeless Riverside man in 2003, though he has since received additional time for making weapons, assaulting a guard and assaulting fellow prisoners, one of whom he killed at Salinas Valley State Prison.
California: On March 26, 2022, a prisoner died after he was attacked in the recreation yard at California State Prison in Sacramento. Mercury News reported that the assault on Nathan Marcus, 33, was carried out by two fellow prisoners, Gregory Roach and Tyler Yates. The incident was broken up by guards, who deployed chemical agents and performed life saving measures on Marcus to no avail. He was serving two sentences for evading a police officer and possessing a deadly weapon as a prisoner. Roach and Yates were taken to solitary confinement, under suspicion of his murder.
Colombia: The New York Post reported that a Colombian drug cartel boss escaped a jail in Bogotá in mid-March 2022 by disguising himself as a guard. Juan Castro, also known as “Matamba,” strode out of his cell at the La Picota jail, passing in front of a security camera. He reportedly looked relaxed as he walked down hallways and through doors, eventually walking right out of the facility. He wasn’t reported missing until the next morning. The guard under suspicion of providing the disguise was arrested, and 56 other guards on duty during the escape were suspended. Castro was awaiting extradition to the U.S. on charges he masterminded up to a fifth of the cocaine traffic in the southwestern U.S.
Colorado: On March 18, 2022, a jury found a prisoner at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, not guilty on charges he assaulted a guard at a Colorado prison where he was formerly held. Unicorn Riot reported that the prisoner, anarchist Eric King, convinced jurors he was defending himself in August 2018 when he struck Colorado prison guard Donald Wilcox, after Wilcox took King into a closet and began beating him, calling him a “bitch” and saying the abuse was an “attitude adjustment.” After the incident, King was placed in a four-point restraint chair for seven hours. Wilcox is accused in a complaint filed by the Civil Liberties Defense Center of conspiring with other guards and white supremacist prisoners to target King and fabricating an assault charge against him. At the time of the incident, King was serving a 10-year sentence for an attempted attack with a Molotov cocktail on an empty congressional office in a Kansas City government building.
Florida: A guard at the Polk County Detention Center in Lakeland, Florida, was arrested on March 9, 2022, on charges he sexually harassed an unnamed prisoner. The Lakeland Ledger reported that the guard, Robert Collins, 57, was charged with sexual battery and unlawful solicitation for coercing the prisoner to perform “lewd” acts on March 4 and 5, 2022, when he got her “to expose herself to him, touch herself and touch him.” The prisoner said she was afraid not to do as Collins told her, citing his authority in the situation and expressing concern her sentence may be lengthened. It is unclear whether she was Collins’ only victim.
France: An associate of Jeffrey Epstein, the late billionaire and accused sex-trafficker, was found dead in a Paris jail cell in mid-February 2022. UPI reported that Jean-Luc Brunel, 75, was found in his cell at La Santé prison, having apparently hanged himself. Brunel was a former modeling agent accused of supplying underage victims to Epstein, who was found dead in a New York City cell in August 2019. [See: PLN, Mar. 2020, p. 40.] Epstein’s former cellmate then also died, reportedly from COVID-19. [See: PLN, May 2021, p.61.] Brunel was arrested in December 2020 at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and charged with sexual harassment and raping minors. Virginia Roberts Guiffre, an American who said she was sexually abused as a minor by Epstein, Brunel and Britain’s former Prince Andrew, expressed her disappointment at never being able to face Brunel in court. Amazingly, just like Epstein’s case, the cameras in Brunel’s cellblock were also malfunctioning at the time of his death and were unable to record the manner of his death.
Kansas: Corrections1.com reported that three former Kansas jail guards were charged on March 9, 2022, with scheming to sell illegal steroids at the Sedgewick County Jail. A fourth person who did not work there was also charged in the plot. That man was Dallas Michael Hutchinson, 42, who was charged in addition to guards Joshua Simonis, 30, Tyler C. Broomes, 29, and Mario A. Ouellet, 41. They were three of eight jail guards suspended in February 2020 for allegedly selling and using steroids at the jail between September 2017 and March 2020. Only one is still employed at the jail, according to a Sheriff’s Office spokesman, Lt. Benjamin Blick. The case was reportedly delayed due to COVID-19.
Minnesota: A guard at a state women’s prison in Minnetonka, Minnesota, was charged in late March 2022 with mailing drug-saturated letters and sheets of song lyrics to prisoners. Bring Me the News reported that the guard, Grace M. Telfer, 24, was handed a single count of sending contraband into a prison in early 2021 for her role in the scheme. She and her prisoner accomplices were found out after a narcotics investigation was opened in March 2021, during which monitored phone calls revealed Telfer was plotting to smuggle the drugs. One of the incidents involved two letters made to look like they were mailed from law firms, which were saturated with methamphetamine and sent to Oak Park Heights prison. Telfer became a suspect early in the investigation. Authorities then searched her home, interviewing her three days after she resigned from her position at Shakopee Correctional Facility.
Nebraska: The Lincoln Journal Star reported that a former prison guard in the Nebraska capital was charged on February 15, 2022, with sexual abuse of a prisoner. The guard, Sarah Nelson Torsiello, 45, was arrested in January 2022, accused of groping and kissing an unnamed 37-year-old state prisoner serving life for first-degree murder. Torsiello, who had worked for the state DOC since August 2003, resigned after her arrest. She is also accused of providing the prisoner a “burner” cellphone during their six-day relationship in December 2021, and she now faces charges for that as well as first-degree and second-degree sexual abuse.
Nebraska: The Lincoln Journal Star reported that a former Nebraska state prison guard was arrested on March 30, 2022, on charges of unauthorized communication with a parolee. The guard, Nicole Eliker, 40, had worked at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women since 2012 before she was arrested by the Nebraska State Patrol. The identity of the alleged parolee was not made public at the time Eliker’s charges were announced by Nebraska DOC.
New Jersey: An administrative law judge in New Jersey handed down a decision on February 15, 2022, that a fired jail guard in Newark should be rehired. As NJ.com reported, Essex County Jail guard Frank James, 51, who was fired for alleged incompetence, misconduct, and neglecting detainees on March 9, 2020, will now be rehired and provided back-pay, as well as his attorney’s fees. The state DOC alleged that James failed to adequately perform duties like reporting items he confiscated from a prisoner, properly accounting for all prisoners, or locking cell doors. But the administrative judge in the case stated that DOC had not sufficiently proved the charges because only managers were willing to testify against James and none of his peers who might have directly witnessed the alleged crimes. Thanks to complications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic the case was prolonged two years, but James will now be able to return to his job.
New Jersey: A man held in an Essex County jail died on February 22, 2022, NJ.com reported. The man, Garrison Bryant, 33, was awaiting sentencing scheduled for the following month, after pleading guilty to aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer. His family alleged that Bryant died from a head wound sustained from a broomstick during a fight on February 20, 2022. This is not the first deadly or near-deadly incident involving someone in county custody in the past few months. In September 2021, prisoner Jayshawn Boyd, 22, was beaten with a microwave by other prisoners. He is now in a coma. Another prisoner, Dan Gellin, 27, died after he was stabbed and allegedly refused to go to a hospital in December 2021. Bryant was being held in the county’s Delaney Hall, a detention facility privately operated for federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement by Community Education Centers. He is survived by his two children.
New Mexico: On March 21, 2022, three prisoners near Gallup seized control of a transport van, the Albuquerque Journal reported. The three, LaCosta Reeves, 45, Rickie Billie, 36, and Josh Hall, 35, took control of a vehicle transporting them from Bernalillo County to Gallup when Hall pretended to have a heart attack. The guard driving the van stopped, and Hall—who had slipped from his handcuffs—assaulted him and took control of the vehicle. The trio drove then some 50 miles before authorities were able to stop them and return them to custody. No additional charges related to the incident have yet been filed against the three.
New Mexico: The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that a prison guard in Grants was stabbed by a prisoner on the night of March 8, 2022. The prisoner, Jesus Alberto Robles, attacked the unnamed guard with a homemade knife while she was locking down the housing unit for the night. Robles is serving a 20-year sentence after being found guilty in March 2021 of stabbing a guard at a different facility while he was waiting to be sentenced for the murder of his girlfriend.
New York: An off-duty New York City prison guard was a bad landlord to one of his tenants, soiling the tenant’s door with feces on March 4, 2022, before illegally evicting her two weeks later. The New York Post reported that the guard, Nigel Escalona, spread fecal matter around the door, faucets, door-nobs, and doormats of the home where the 52-year-old woman lived. Two weeks later she returned home from to work find her locks changed without a notice of eviction having been issued. Escalona is a guard at the Manhattan Detention Complex and now faces charges of criminal mischief for the first incident as well as violation of local eviction law.
New York: A federal prison guard in New York City was arrested on March 18, 2022, the Associated Press reported. Greg McKenzie, 35, was charged with lying to federal investigators about his involvement with a loaded gun found in the cell of a prisoner at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in March 2020. Authorities say that McKenzie had contact with the prisoner and his wife before the discovery of the gun, but he denied it when asked by investigators. The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced the prison’s closure in September 2021. McKenzie now works at another BOP prison near his home in Danbury, Connecticut. On the day of his arrest, he pleaded not guilty to charges of making false statements and obstruction of justice.
Ohio: On March 31, 2022, prosecutors filed a motion to drop charges against a Cuyahoga County Jail guard after seeing the results of a psychological evaluation ordered by a judge in his case, Cleveland.com reported. A judge became concerned for the mental fitness of the guard, John McCloud, 28, during hearings before his trial. McCloud was charged with violating the civil rights of a prisoner in a seven-minute altercation in October 2018 over a banana peel. [See: PLN, Oct. 2019, p. 63.] McCloud suffered a stroke sometime after the incident, leaving him with memory lapses. He was the first guard to be charged in a string of violent incidents at the jail which left seven prisoners dead in just four months in 2018. [See: PLN, Sep. 2020, p.36.]
Oklahoma: WIBW, a news channel serving Topeka, reported that the last two of 23 prisoners who ran a Kansas drug trafficking ring from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary were convicted in mid-March 2022. The prisoners, Travis Vontress, 45, and Kevin Lewis, 58, were found guilty of facilitating the trafficking of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. They are scheduled for sentencing on June 22, 2022. Vontress was also found guilty of possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. All 23 men were originally from Wichita.
Oklahoma: On March 29, 2022, an escapee from Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite was recaptured. The New York Post reported that the prisoner, Frank Logan, 56, who has links to the United Aryan Brotherhood and is tattooed with swastikas, was caught after an escape two days earlier, when someone called 911 to report seeing him. Evidently Logan had been approaching people and asking to use their cellphones when one reported him.
Oregon: A Yamhill County jail guard—who is a former U.S. congressman—has decided to run for his old office, the Washington Examiner reported. The guard, former Rep. Jim Bunn (R-Ore.), served a single term in Congress from 1995 to 1997 before losing the seat in a scandal over his divorce to remarry an aide. He has now decided to attempt a return to congress after spending many of the intervening years as a jail guard. In a 2001 interview, Bunn claimed that his work at the prison had changed his understanding of the criminal justice system, giving him more sympathy for people who end up behind bars.
Pennsylvania: The Patch reported that a former prison guard in Philadelphia was charged in Montgomery County on March 10, 2022, with selling guns illegally. The guard, Amanda Barr, 37, is accused of making straw purchases of guns at local gun shows and selling them over social media to people who were legally banned from owning firearms. Investigators became suspicious of Barr after two guns that she purchased were found in the possession of individuals not permitted to carry weapons in late 2021. She allegedly purchased seven guns in total between December 2018 and March 2019. Two of those guns were reported stolen shortly after purchase, but the other five were also not found in her possession by the time of the investigation.
Pennsylvania: A former Montgomery County prison guard was sentenced in mid-March 2022 after pleading guilty to smuggling contraband into a facility in the county. The Patch reported that guard Mustafa Saeed Robinson, 38, will serve two to four years in prison for his role in smuggling Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, into Montgomery County Correctional Facility between October 2020 and January 2021 when he was employed there. Two prisoners allegedly conspired with Robinson as well and are awaiting their own trials. In pleading guilty Robinson managed to avoid a sentence that could have run for decades.
South Carolina: The State in Columbia, South Carolina, reported that attorneys for jailed Colleton County lawyer Alex Murdaugh filed suit on February 28, 2022, accusing officials at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center of improperly releasing his recorded phone calls from jail. The tapes were obtained by FitNews under a South Carolina Freedom of Information Act request. The prominent family’s legal troubles trace back at least to the 2015 hit-and-run death of Stephen Smith, an acquaintance of Murdaugh’s son Buster. That case remains unsolved, as does the 2019 death of Mallory Beach on a boat piloted by Murdaugh’s other son, Paul, when both were 19. Also unsolved: the murders of Paul and his mother in a shooting at the family estate in June 2021. Murdaugh, 53, was jailed in October 2021 on charges that he swindled legal clients of $8.4 million, a month after he survived another shooting. Prosecutors allege that was in reality a staged attempt to collect a $10 million insurance payout for Buster. After the February 2018 death of his family’s nanny and housekeeper, Gloris Satterfield, 57, her heirs claimed they never saw any of a $4.3 million insurance settlement—the same amount Murdaugh offered to pay them in December 2021, along with an apology, in an effort to end his related theft charges.
South Dakota: Dakota News Now reported that a former guard at the South Dakota Penitentiary pleaded guilty on February 8, 2022, to having sex with a prisoner. The guard, Rian Fitzpatrick, 33, was fired after his indictment in September 2021 for receiving sexual favors, including oral sex, from a prisoner in detention on February 2 and March 17 of that year. For that, Minnehaha County court records show, a pre-sentencing investigation into his case indicated that Fitzpatrick will likely serve 40 days in prison and 20 days of electronic monitoring. Although the case has been settled with the guilty plea, questions remain around Fitzpatrick’s connection with the suicides of two prisoners, Michael Noland and Michael Hand, in April 2021. The state Division of Criminal Investigation is still looking into those cases.
Texas: Two guards at the Nacogdoches County Jail were arrested on February 28, 2022, according to KWTX in Waco, and both were indicted on charges of sexual misconduct with prisoners. The guards, Stephanie Moore, 28, and Jamie Stephens, 19, were accused of misconduct in two separate and unrelated cases. Both were hired in the first half of 2021. Stephens was placed on administrative leave and then fired in August 2021 after the allegations in her case surfaced. Moore too was placed on administrative leave in January 2022 in response to the allegations in her case.
Texas: A prisoner with less than a year to serve on his sentence was killed by police after escaping the Bowie County Jail on March 21, 2022, according to the Texarkana Gazette. The prisoner, Michael Olson, 30, was serving time for a misdemeanor assault against a pregnant woman after kicking his expectant girlfriend. He had just 210 days until the end of his sentence when he and fellow prisoner Wayde Burton Land, 37, escaped. He was shot and killed during a struggle with police as they attempted to apprehend him. Land was in prison for attempting to break into and burglarize a carwash. He now faces a potential new sentence of 10 years for the escape.
Texas: A newly hired jail guard in San Antonio was arrested just before starting work in the position, Crime Online reported. Alucard Harris, 20, was taken into custody for allegedly soliciting a child for sex on March 7, 2022, just before he was set to begin working at the Bexar County Jail. According to investigators, Harris had made plans to meet up with a 15-year-old girl, and when they searched her phone, they found “sexual and graphic” conversations between the two. Harris admitted to knowing his victim was 15 and trying to ensure she wouldn’t tell anyone about their illicit plans.
Virginia: A prison guard in central Virginia was arrested on March 30, 2022, and charged with attempting to smuggle drugs to prisoners. Progress Index reported that Riverside Regional Jail guard Tijuan A. Collins had been the subject of an internal investigation when he was arrested, and authorities had wanted to catch him before he could bring contraband into jail. He was arrested when he showed up for his shift and officials found drugs and $600 in cash on him. Collins now faces a total of nine charges, including possessing a firearm while in possession of narcotics and three counts of attempting to bring unauthorized items into the facility.
Virginia: According to WWBT in Richmond, a former state prison guard was among nine people arrested on smuggling charges by Hanover County Sheriff’s deputies on March 8, 2022. The guard, Jaden Robertson, 23, had worked at Pamunkey Regional Jail from May 2020 to July 2021. He and the other eight individuals face charges of smuggling drugs into the facility. The investigation, which lasted nearly a year, was said to have begun when jail officials reported to the sheriff’s office that a guard might be smuggling narcotics.
Washington: A long-time state prisoner was killed in Walla Walla on March 13, 2022, the Associated Press reported. The prisoner, Dayva Cross, 62, was found by guards in a shower area at WashingtonState Penitentiary, where he was serving time for the murders of his wife and her two daughters on March 6, 1999. A third daughter escaped to report to authorities that Cross had stabbed and killed her two sisters and her mother, Anouchka Baldwin, after an argument. In 2001, a jury decided Cross should be put on death row, but his sentence was changed to life in prison when the state Supreme Court ruled that Washington’s capital punishment law was unconstitutional. A suspect in Cross’s murder was identified and moved into what prison officials called “appropriate housing” as an investigation got underway.
West Virginia: WDTV, a news channel serving Weston, West Virginia, reported that Gov. Jim Justice (R) ordered an investigation into conditions at Southern Regional Jail (SRJ) in March 2022 after allegations surfaced of inhumane treatment of prisoners at the Raleigh County prison.
WVVA, a news channel serving Bluefield, reported that two SRJ guards said prisoners in the quarantine section of the prison were denied access to water for days at a time. The girlfriend of one of the prisoners claimed that her boyfriend had been forced drink from a toilet for hydration. Since the allegations, former prisoners and families have come forward with allegations not just of water denial but also of other unhealthy conditions and withholding of medical treatment. In neighboring Fayette County, the state maximum-security prison was without water in January 2022 during an outage. Both that county and Raleigh County share part of the same watershed with the Charleston Jail in Kanawha County, where a chemical spill left 429 prisoners without water in January 2014. [See: PLN, Jun. 2, 2014, online.]
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