Stories posted are written by National news Journalists, not by this blog.
Our Blog Tips
Reminder: Stories in this blog b/c these folks who are NOT sex offenders, -crossed paths with- a former sex offender or someone accused of a sex offense, and circumstances (see article/s) resulted in their death. Deaths of any, RSOs or Accused SOs mentioned, are counted in our Murders/Suicides blogs, not in this blog.

Father of slain inmate sues state

There is confusion between articles as to whether "they thought he was a sex offender" or whether "he was a sex offender," see wording in both articles. However, given they fired employees over the incident, likely he was NOT a former sex offender.
9-19-2007 Arizona

The father of a Florence inmate killed with a homemade prison shank has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the state.

The prisoner, William Lee Harris, was classified as a nonviolent inmate on a three-year drug charge at the Eyman Unit of the Arizona State Prison Complex.

According to the complaint filed Sept. 10, Harris was falsely labeled by a prison employee as a sex offender and then improperly housed with a Class 5 inmate — the most violent type.

Leslie Rakestraw, the lawyer for the Harris family, said the claim will ask for $2.5 million in damages.

“We would be willing to settle for that, or less even,” she said Monday. “But we have gotten absolutely no response from the state.”

The complaint cites the death as “a direct and proximate result of the negligence of the employees of the Department of Corrections.”

Calls this week to the Arizona Department of Corrections were not returned.

An internal investigation by the department noted that prison staff made mistakes that led to the death of Harris. After the slaying, 12 prison employees were reprimanded or fired.

Michael Gaston is accused of slaying Harris within hours after he moved into Gaston’s cell on Sept. 17, 2006. Prison records show Gaston stabbed Harris with a nine-inch shank, which was found protruding from his chest as he lay covered in blood.

Gaston was serving a prison sentence at the time for killing a man over a car loan.

The prison report indicates that a guard who quit the department soon after the incident falsely told inmates that Harris was a sex offender.

Rakestraw said Harris’ father, L.V. Harris, lives out of state.

According to Rakestraw, no trial date has been set for the case.

“The state has 20 days to file an answer,” she said. “We get lots of delays based on technicalities. They will do anything to keep us from getting our trial it seems.” ..more.. by Devon Hersom, For the Tribune

Human Errors Added To Inmate Death At Florence Prison
1-24-2007 Arizona:

12 People, Including Warden, Disciplined For Mix-Ups, Wrong Paperwork

A series of blunders were committed by personnel at a state prison in Florence that resulted in the killing of an inmate, an Arizona Corrections Department investigation has revealed.

Twelve employees, including John Ontiveros, the warden of the Eyman Complex in Florence, were disciplined in the case, according to the report released Tuesday.

William Harris was killed Sept. 7, just hours after he was transferred from another facility and placed in the same cell as Michael Gaston, who was charged in the case. Gaston was serving a life sentence for murder, while Harris was in prison serving time for drug and sex offenses. advertisement

"Proper procedures were in place. What we ran into was human error," said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Katie Decker.

The errors included a variety of mix-ups, from not filing proper forms on inmate classifications in a timely manner to simple mistakes on the forms.

In one instance, a guard announced to other inmates that Harris was a sex offender. Sex offenders typically are segregated from the rest of the prison population to protect their safety.

Decker said cells were not searched properly and medical records were not transferred on time.

The report said Gaston may have been improperly allowed on a work detail, which might have enabled him to have access to materials he could use to fashion a weapon.

Of the 12 employees who were disciplined, Decker said:
One was fired.
One was demoted.
Four were suspended.
Three received written reprimands.
One resigned.
Two retired.
She declined to provide the employees' names.

Ontiveros was one of those who left the department. ..more.. by Michael Clancy, The Arizona Republic

Convict in Wickenburg area murder found dead in cell

2-26-2008 Arizona:

A man convicted of murdering a Wickenburg resident and awaiting trial in another murder case has been found dead in his prison cell in what authorities described Tuesday as a hanging.

The body of Michael Gaston, 23, who was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, was discovered Monday during a routine security check at the Eyman Complex in Florence, according to the Arizona Department of Corrections.

"He left a suicide note," the agency said in a prepared statement. As per department policy, a criminal investigation has been launched, the agency said.

Gaston was sentenced March 3, 2006, after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the 2004 death of Bret D. Smalling, 21, who was taken to the desert and killed on the pretext of hunting for rocks.

Gaston also was awaiting trial in Pinal County Superior Court for the Sept. 7, 2006, murder of fellow inmate William Harris, 45, a death that prison officials later blamed on a series of blunders by agency workers.

Harris, who was serving time for drug and sex offenses, was killed just hours after he was transferred from another facility and placed in the same cell as Gaston.

Twelve employees, including John Ontiveros, the warden of the Eyman Complex, were disciplined in the case.

In the earlier slaying, Maricopa County sheriff's investigators described Smalling's death as part of scheme by Gaston and two other men, supposedly friends of Smalling, to scare him into repaying a loan.

Instead, Smalling was cut down with a 12-gauge shotgun and his body was dumped in a remote grave near Arizona 74 and Castle Hot Springs Road, about 10 miles southeast of Wickenburg, deputies said.

His body was found March 25, 2004, nearly three weeks after family members had reported him missing.

The other defendants, two brothers, were convicted in the case on lesser homicide charges and sent to prison for terms of 10½ and 16 years, respectively. ..Source..

No comments: