(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

A 56-year-old former Marine was found dead in a Riker’s Island jail cell that apparently overheated to at least 100 degrees due to faulty equipment last month.

Jerome Murdough was arrested a week earlier for trespassing when he curled up in an enclosed stairwell on the roof of a Harlem apartment building to sleep. Murdough was homeless and suffered from alcoholism, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. He was also on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication, which may have made him for susceptible to heat.

An autopsy was inconclusive, but initial indications point to extreme dehydration or heat stroke.

He basically baked to death,” said an officials, who chose not to divulge his name because he isn’t allowed to discuss specifics of this case.

Still the question remains: how could this happen?

Because Murdough was in the mental-observation unit, correction officers were supposed to check his cell every 15 minutes as part of a suicide watch. But they didn’t. Murdough was not discovered until four hours after the last check.

Murdough’s 75-year-old mother, Alma Murdough, did not learn about her son’s death until a month later when the Associated Press contacted her. Murdough admitted she hadn’t seen him in three years but describes her son as a “very lovely, caring guy” despite his struggles.

No doubt, Murdough should’ve been referred to psychiatric care. Jennifer Parish, an attorney at the Urban Justice Center’s Mental Health Project argued, “So Mr. Murdough violated the trespass law. So he suffered the consequences by going to jail. But the jail system committed more serious harm to him.”

Naturally, his family wants a better explanation. And Rikers Island to hold some semblance of responsibility.

“We want justice for what was done,” said one of his sisters, Wanda Mehala. “He wasn’t just some old homeless person on the street. He was loved. He had a life. He had a family. He had feelings.”

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  • Chelle

    I know people make their own decisions, but if he sister says that he was loved, why wasn’t he living with family? Why was he homeless?

    • The Other Jess

      He was a grown man and it sounds as if he chose not to live with his family. Also, he suffered from mental illness, which in many cases can make the sufferer very hard to live with. Mental illness also can impair judgement, maybe causing him to think it would be OK to curl up and sleep in the stairwell.

      But mainly, this is an issue of mistreatment of the mentally ill and police irresponsibility and wrongdoing.

      If he was in an observation unit for mentally ill inmates, why wasn’t he actually being “observed”? Why was any prisoner forced to stay in an area with known temperature issues? And why should anyone even be arrested as a “trespasser” simply for sleeping in the stairwell on private property? Yes, it’s private property but he was only sleeping, and the police could have easily woken him up and booted him off the property, possibly even referring him to a homeless shelter. The man obviously only needed a place to sleep and was not trying to hurt anyone.

      There is so much mistreatment and uncaring attitudes towards our mentally ill citizens. This case is scary if you have any friends or family suffering from mental illness. Society will not give them the appropriate level of medical treatment they need, and leave them to fend for themselves, which usually means remaining ill and being homeless or in jail. No other medical condition is treated in such a discriminatory manner, with such lack of care and contempt.

  • Chelle

    I know people make their own decisions, but if his sister says that he was loved, why wasn’t he living with family? Why was he homeless?

  • Paulester Jefferson

    If you have never known anyone with schizophrenia then you probably don’t know that it’s impossible to make them do what you want them to do even taking medications that will help. Please don’t judge the family. I’m sure they did what they could reasonably do with a full grown schizophrenic.

  • Ms.M

    ….I just want to know why this man’s mother was notified of this a whole MONTH after his passing.

  • The Other Jess

    He was a grown man and it sounds as if he chose not to live with his family. Also, he suffered from mental illness, which in many cases can make the sufferer very hard to live with. Mental illness also can impair judgement, maybe causing him to think it would be OK to curl up and sleep in the stairwell.

    But mainly, this is an issue of mistreatment of the mentally ill and police irresponsibility and wrongdoing.

    If he was in an observation unit for mentally ill inmates, why wasn’t he actually being “observed”? Why was any prisoner forced to stay in an area with known temperature issues? And why should anyone even be arrested as a “trespasser” simply for sleeping in the stairwell on private property? Yes, it’s private property but he was only sleeping, and the police could have easily woken him up and booted him off the property, possibly even referring him to a homeless shelter. The man obviously only needed a place to sleep and was not trying to hurt anyone.

    There is so much mistreatment and uncaring attitudes towards our mentally ill citizens. This case is scary if you have any friends or family suffering from mental illness. Society will not give them the appropriate level of medical treatment they need, and leave them to fend for themselves, which usually means remaining ill and being homeless or in jail. No other medical condition is treated in such a discriminatory manner, with such lack of care and contempt.