McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

February 5, 2013

Three OSP prison guards charged in prisoners death

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — Three former guards have been charged with manslaughter and willful neglect in the death of a prisoner who died of smoke inhalation in his cell at Oklahoma State Penitentiary last summer.

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 the death of Julius Parker. Parker, 26, was an inmate at OSP. who died of smoke inhalation in his cell in July.

All three former correctional officers no longer have positions at OSP according to Jerry Massie, public information officer for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. He said Anderson and Nair resigned in August and Willis was terminated in Sept. after the investigation 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 for the arrests of the three men.

The men were charged after Parker died in his cell on July 28. Parker 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 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.