Homeless Vet 'Basically Baked to Death' in NY Jail

Riker's Island having trouble with mental illness, violence

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 19, 2014 1:20 PM CDT

(Newser) – Guards at Rikers Island are supposed to check on mentally ill inmates every 15 minutes. But when Jerome Murdough was booked for sleeping on a housing project roof, he was left unattended long enough to keel over dead from overheating, the AP revealed today. The former Marine was left alone in a cell at 10:30pm on Feb. 14 that, thanks to some malfunctioning equipment, reached at least 100 degrees. He was found slumped over dead at 2:30am.

The 56-year-old had apparently failed to open a vent in his cell, as other inmates had, and he was especially susceptible to heat because of his anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication. "He basically baked to death," one official says. The AP's report comes the same day that the New York Times published a look at the problems caused by Rikers' growing concentration of mentally ill inmates, who say they've suffered abuse from guards and other prisoners. The Times links the trend to a surge in violence not seen in decades; at least 12 inmates have been slashed or stabbed already this year.

Alma Murdough holds a photo of her son, Jerome, at her home in Queens.
Alma Murdough holds a photo of her son, Jerome, at her home in Queens.   (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Alma Murdough is interveiwed  about the death of her son at her home in Queens.
Alma Murdough is interveiwed about the death of her son at her home in Queens.   (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
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