Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Six Deaths in Just Over Six Months at Alabama Jail

With the death of Elvin Craig Stacy, 63, on January 2, 2024, Alabama’s Mobile Metro Jail had racked up six detainee deaths in just over six months.

The spate of deaths began on June 26, 2023, when Ernest James Little, Jr., 38, was found unresponsive by cellmates around 1:30 a.m. Guards administered Narcan, but Little was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital. The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) said an autopsy and toxicology report were ordered. Little had been in the jail since September 2022 on robbery and drug trafficking charges.

Guards next found Terrell Markuise Moultrie unresponsive in his cell on July 15, 2023, just three days before he would have turned 31. MCSO Major Crimes Unit detectives found “no obvious signs of foul play or trauma.” An investigation is ongoing. He had been at the jail since October 2022 for allegedly barging into a woman’s home, accusing her of owing him money and assaulting her when she refused to pay.

William Gerard Appling, Jr., 46, was the third detainee to die, after he was found unresponsive in his cell on July 25, 2023. Arrested six days earlier on charges of criminal trespass and violating parole, he spent the first three days in the medical clinic recovering from injuries sustained before his arrest. He was then moved to a medical cell, where he collapsed and later died. Despite losing three detainees in less than a month, Sheriff Paul Burch said that “the high number of deaths was likely coincidental.”

As if to prove him wrong, another death followed on August 15, 2023, when William Gregory Hooper, 60, was found unresponsive in his cell and pronounced dead a short time later. He arrived at the jail a week earlier after an arrest for public intoxication. Listed as homeless, he suffered from several health problems, and jail medical staffers were monitoring him. MCSO said an investigation was underway but added that Hooper likely died of natural causes.

No one else died at the jail for almost four months, until William Franklin, 77, was found unresponsive on December 14, 2024. Responding paramedics soon declared him dead. MCSO said there was no reported disturbance in the cell Franklin shared with three other detainees. He was arrested two weeks earlier for trespassing and held in a medical ward due to declining cognitive abilities.

Not quite three weeks later, Stacy was found unresponsive and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was arrested on November 16, 2023, on charges including criminal endangerment. Complaining of chest pains and heart failure, he was held in a medical cell, where a jail nurse found him a day before he died. As with those preceding it, Stacy’s death showed signs consistent with natural causes, though an investigation was underway.

Meanwhile Sheriff Burch said the fentanyl-trafficking arrest of guard Jessica Odom on August 31, 2023, could be linked to some of the mystery deaths. As PLN reported, Burch fired Odom and fellow guard Kimberly A. Henderson, whom he accused of helping her, but the charges against Henderson were dropped in November 2023. [See: PLN, Jan. 2024, p.63.]

Charges were reinstated, however, on March 22, 2024. In dismissing her original counts, County Judge Zack Moore heard Henderson testify that she was on a call with a mutual friend from whom she was relaying a question to Odom, not trying to slip her the phone as Burch alleged. Odom has yet to be indicted. Another judge, George Zoghby, reduced her bail from $1 million to $750,000 in December 2023.

The jail holds some 1,500 detainees for the county and the city of Mobile, with a staff of more than 600. It was in the news yet again on September 19, 2023, when a $2.02 million settlement was reached in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against MCSO by the federal Department of Justice, after a dozen female guards logged complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing jail supervisors of failing to protect them from indecent exposure and lewd remarks by detainees.

The settlement provides $580,000 split between the named plaintiffs, plus a $1.41 million fund to compensate eligible current and former female guards who worked at the jail over the last 12 years. Sheriff Burch also agreed to implement changes at the jail, including removing sexual harassment violators from the general population and requiring certain repeat offenders to wear pink uniforms. In addition, the agreement provides $120,000 in fees and costs for the guards’ attorneys with the Law Office of John C. Davis in Gainesville, Florida. See: United States v. Burch, USDC (S.D. Ala.), Case No. 1:21-cv-00114.  


Additional sources: Alabama Media Group, WALA, WKRG, WPMI

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

United States v. Burch