McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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February 5, 2013

Ex-guard at OSP pleads innocent in inmate death

McALESTER — A former correctional officer has pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and willful neglect in the death of a prisoner in his cell at Oklahoma State Penitentiary last summer.

Former correctional officer David Willis pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Pittsburg County District Court and was released on af $1,500 bond.

Two other correctional officers were also charged with felony manslaughter and misdemeanor willful neglect in the death of convicted armed robber Julius Parker, who died of smoke inhalation in his cell at OSP July 28.

Former OSP guards David Anderson, 56, Jay Nair, 46, and David Willis, 30, all off McAlester, were charged Friday in Pittsburg County District Court with second-degree manslaughter and willful neglect to perform their duties in Parker’s death.

Parker, 26, was serving time out of Tulsa County for convictions on armed robbery and other charges. He arrived at OSP in April 2006 and was scheduled to be released in December 2032.

All three former correctional officers are no longer employed at the prison according to Jerry Massie, public information officer for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Massie said Anderson and Nair resigned in August and Willis was terminated in September after an investigation into the death was complete.

Massie said Anderson was hired at OSP in 1991, Nair was hired in 2007 and Willis was hired in 2006.

A warrant was issued Friday for the arrests of the three men. Anderson and Nair had not turned themselves in as of presstime Tuesday afternoon, according to Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns.

Parker allegedly started a fire in his cell sometime between at 12:19 a.m. and 1:29 a.m. the morning of his death, states an affidavit filed in the case.

At 1:29 a.m., smoke became visible to surveillance cameras and Anderson and Nair investigated the smoke, according to the affidavit by DOC Internal Affairs Agent James Parvin.

“No other personnel went to the door of Parker’s cell until 2:24 a.m.,” Parvin states.

At 2:24 a.m., Parvin reported Correctional Officer Garvis Wooten performed a check of Parker’s cell and then informed his chain of command that Parker’s cell was full of smoke “with zero visibility” and he couldn’t get (Parker) to respond, according to the affidavit.

An extraction team retrieved Parker from the cell at 2:50 a.m. He was taken to McAlester Regional Health Center and was pronounced dead at 3:47 a.m., Parvin’s affidavit states.

Parker’s death was a result of complications of smoke inhalation, according a report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner completed on Aug. 21 and released Oct. 5, the affidavit states.

Charges of felony second-degree manslaughter allege the three did “effect the death of Julius Parker by culpable negligence in failing to perform their duties as correctional officers, including but not limited to checking on inmate Julius Parker’s welfare and failing to determine cause of smoke coming from his cell.”

They are all three charged with misdemeanor willful neglect to perform duty.

If convicted of the charges against them, Anderson, Willis and Nair face up to five years in prison and fines of up to $1,500.

Nair allegedly gave conflicting statements to officials after the incident, the affidavit states.

Several interviews with Nair were conducted by investigators July 28 and 30. Then on Aug. 2, Nair allegedly admitted that his July statements and written report were false.

Nair had initially reported Parker was conscious when Nair and Anderson went to check the cell at 1:38 a.m. and Parker was “upset over food passageway being secured,” the affidavit states.

Nair allegedly reported that at 1:50 a.m.,  he “went back and conducted a second unit check, Parker still agitated,” the affidavit states.

On Aug. 2, Nair allegedly changed his story to admit that when he approached Parker’s’ cell, there were no signs that Parker was conscious and he could not see into the cell to determine if Parker was conscious or alive, court records state.

Meanwhile, during an interview on Aug. 1, Anderson allegedly admitted he and Nair approached Parker’s cell on July 28 after “noting smoke coming from the cell.”

Anderson said he did not hear anything or see anything that led him to believe Parker was alive at that time, the affidavit states.

Anderson allegedly reported that neither he nor Nair attempted to communicate with Parker at that time.

Court records also state Anderson allegedly heard Nair report to the oncoming shift that Parker was conscious and beating on the door of his cell, and Anderson did not contradict or offer different observations,

Willis allegedly said during interviews he saw smoke coming from Parker’s cell and “there was quite a lot of it.”

Willis also allegedly stated he did not leave a control booth at the prison to go check on Parker and did not report the incident because “he felt Nair had appropriately informed the chain of command,” the affidavit states.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jlefore@mcalesternews.com.

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