McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Police/Courts

August 28, 2013

2 sentenced in OSP death

McALESTER — Two former Oklahoma State Penitentiary prison guards were given deferred sentences Monday in the death of an inmate who died of smoke inhalation in his cell at OSP on July 28, 2012.

David Anderson, 56, Jay Nair, 46, and David Willis, 30, all of McAlester,  were  charged in January with second-degree manslaughter and misdemeanor willful neglect in connection with the death of inmate Julius Parker, 26.

On Monday, Willis and Nair pleaded no contest to the charges. Judgment and sentencing were deferred for the two men for two years, according to court records. They were also fined $450 each. The men will also be under the supervision of the District 18 District Attorneys office for one year, court records state.

Anderson is set to appear on Sept. 6 for a preliminary hearing conference.

None of the three former correctional officers are employed at the prison according to Jerry Massie, public information officer for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Anderson and Nair resigned in August 2012 and Willis was terminated in Sept. after the investigation was complete, Massie said.

 Anderson had been hired at OSP in 1991, Nair in 2007 and Willis in 2006, according to Massie.

At the time of his death, Parker was serving a Tulsa County sentence for convictions on armed robbery and other charges.

He arrived at OSP in April 2006 and was scheduled to be released Dec. 2032.

According to a court affidavit filed in Pittsburg County District Court, the three men were charged after Parker died in his cell after the prisoner allegedly started a fire in his cell sometime between at 12:19 a.m. and 1:29 a.m. that morning, 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 stated in the affidavit.

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.”

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, the affidavit states.

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.

According to the affidavit, during an interview in 2012 after the incident, 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, 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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