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Delaware Prison Guard Indicted for Death of His K-9

by Jo Ellen Nott

On January 31, 2023, a veteran Delaware prison guard was indicted by a state grand jury on a felony count of first-degree assault, for recklessly confining and causing the death of a law enforcement animal that was under his control. Darrel Wiley, 45, was also charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals and official misconduct. 

Wiley began working for the state Department of Corrections in 2004. He became a K-9 handler after completing training and certification by the National Police Canine Association in 2006. The indictment stated the Wiley had taken an eight-hour class in 2019 called “K-9 Emergency Care Course—Handler Focus,” which taught handlers about heat-related injuries and the risks of heat strokes in their canine partners.   

Lux, a Belgian Malinois/German Shepherd mix about a year and a half old, became a K-9 in February 2020. Lux and Wiley became partners, and after further training the two were assigned to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna in June 2020.  

But investigators from the state Department of Justice (DOJ) say Wiley had a dangerous habit: He would often leave Lux confined and alone in his steamy hot work vehicle during summer months – sometimes for eight hours. The American Veterinary Medical Association warns that temperatures inside a car on a warm day can climb 40 degrees Fahrenheit in just one hour. DOJ investigators discovered that Wiley repeatedly left Lux confined in his vehicle for that long or longer between June and September 2022. The dog died on September 18, 2022, after Wiley allegedly left it in the vehicle for more than four hours, with outside air temperatures exceeding 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

After the animal’s death Wiley was placed on administrative leave while DOJ investigated. He then resigned from DOC on November 24, 2022. State Attorney General Kathy Jennings (D) responded to Lux’s death in a statement: “We all recognize that dogs are completely dependent on us and that owning one is a responsibility — above all else a responsibility to keep it safe. Children understand that fact. The law understands it, too. And figures of authority should understand it better than anyone.”

Sources: WHYY, WTXF

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