NYC Inmate 'Baked to Death' in Jail Cell's Heat

Image: NYC Inmate 'Baked to Death' in Jail Cell's Heat A picture of Jerome Murdough is held by his mother Alma Murdough and sister Cheryl Warner at Alma Murdough's home in the Queens borough of New York.

Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 12:21 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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New York City officials are investigating how an inmate apparently "baked to death" in a Rikers Island jail cell last month, according to The Associated Press.

Jerome Murdough, a 56-year-old homeless former Marine, was arrested Feb. 7 for trespassing at a Harlem housing project. He reportedly told police it was cold out and he was looking for a warm place to sleep. Murdough was then locked up in a cinderblock cell when he unable to post bail.

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He was found dead in his cell a week later, in the early hours of Feb. 15, according to the AP.

The jail staff was reportedly instructed to check on Murdough every 15 minutes because he was on suicide watch in the mental observation unit of the jail. But when jail authorities found him, his internal body temperature and the temperature of his cell were at least 100 degrees, and he had not been checked on for at least four hours, the AP reported.

The jail blamed malfunctioning equipment for the high temperature in the cell.

"He basically baked to death," one jail official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the AP.

Family members are now outraged and asking for answers, according to the New York Daily News.

"They arrested him and took him to a jail to die," Alma Murdough, Jerome Murdough's 75-year-old mother, said. "He went to Rikers Island, and a week later he was deceased. It's outrageous." 

Officials said Murdough was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication. Cheryl Warner, Jerome Murdough's sister, said that the family plans on consulting an attorney.

"I want the city to acknowledge they're responsible," Warner told the Daily News. "We want justice."

Murdough's other sister, Wanda Mehala, told the AP that officials could help the family by giving them an explanation.

"He wasn't just some old homeless person on the street," Mehala said. "He was loved. He had a life. He had a family. He had feelings."

Acting Corrections Department Commissioner Mark Cranston said in statement Wednesday that an internal investigation will be conducted "including issues of staff performance and the adequacy of procedures."

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