Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

National news

March 22, 2014

Mayor: NYC inmate's death in hot cell is troubling

Eds: Adds details on Murdough's military service record. With AP Photos.

NEW YORK (AP) — The mayor called the death of a mentally ill, homeless former Marine who was found in a jail cell that had overheated to at least 100 degrees "very troubling" Thursday, while expressing his condolences to the man's family.

Bill de Blasio, speaking at an unrelated bill signing, said that the investigation into Jerome Murdough's death last month on Rikers Island was ongoing but that he was struck by The Associated Press' account in a story Wednesday about the 56-year-old man's death last month.

"We don't know all the facts yet ... but obviously the allegations we've heard so far are very troubling," he said. "My heart goes out to his family; we lost someone who served his country."

Four city officials told the AP that Murdough, who was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication, was found dead in the early hours of Feb. 15 in a cell that had overheated, apparently by malfunctioning equipment. He also did not open a small vent in his cell, as other inmates did, to let in cool air, they said.

One of the officials, who all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss specifics of the case, said Murdough "basically baked to death."

The medical examiner's office said that an autopsy was inconclusive and that more tests were needed to determine Murdough's exact cause of death. But the officials, all with detailed knowledge of the case, say initial indications from the autopsy and investigation point to extreme dehydration or heat stroke.

Murdough's 75-year-old mother, Alma Murdough, said Thursday she appreciated the mayor's comments but insisted more had to be done to find out how her son died.

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