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Rikers Guard Who Allegedly Let Inmate 'Bake to Death' Faces Suspension

Image: Rikers Guard Who Allegedly Let Inmate 'Bake to Death' Faces Suspension In this 2011 file photo, the entrance to the City of New York Rikers Island Correction Department facility is seen in the Queens borough of New York.

Friday, 30 May 2014 08:14 AM

By Michael Mullins

A Rikers Island guard is facing a 30-day suspension for allegedly allowing a mentally ill inmate to be "baked to death" in his cell in February. The incident came four years after the same guard was disciplined for a similar incident in which she abandoned her post.

The deceased inmate, 56-year-old Jerome Murdough, was a homeless former Marine who had been sent to Rikers after he couldn't make the $2,500 bail for a misdemeanor trespassing arrest. Murdough was reportedly picked by police after they found him sleeping in a public housing building's enclosed stairway in Harlem during what was one of the city's coldest winters in recent years.

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Speaking on condition of anonymity, a city official told The Associated Press that Murdough was "basically baked to death" when he was left unchecked for at least four hours in a part of the jail that had a malfunctioning heater. As a result, Murdough experienced heat that ranged from 101 to 103 degrees.

According to Murdough's family, the former Marine had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The psychotropic medication he had been taking reportedly made him more sensitive to the heat.

NYC's medical examiner's office is still investigating Murdough's death and has yet to determine exactly how he died, however, one investigator told the AP he appeared to have died from hyperthermia.

While logbook entries indicate that the Rikers guard, Carol Lackner, had toured the area where Murdough was being kept every half hour as is required, a surveillance camera later revealed that she was not where she was supposed to be, another anonymous city official told the AP.

Murdough's mother Alma is now suing the city of New York for $25 million for the wrongful death of her son.

"Had the city properly supervised this officer, who had a history of abandoning her post, Jerome might still be alive," Alma Murdough's attorney, Derek Sells, told the AP.

Lackner has reportedly been unresponsive to various media inquiries; however, her attorney, Damond Carter, argued that the blame shouldn't fall entirely on her shoulders, telling the AP, "It's unfair to lay everything at her foot," suggesting that there were multiple factors that led to Murdough's death.

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