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Prisoner death not being investigate as homicide despite “blunt force trauma”

The county coroner said Victor Russo was found unresponsive in his cell with apparent blunt force trauma and died two days later at a local hospital.

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The Alabama Department of Corrections is not investigating the recent death of an incarcerated man as a homicide despite the fact that the county coroner said he as found unresponsive in his cell with “apparent blunt force trauma” two days before he died in a local hospital. 

Victor Russo, 60, died Feb. 25 after being found unresponsive in his cell at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility on Feb. 23, according to  Jefferson County Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates and the Alabama Department of Corrections. 

“The circumstances of how the decedent sustained the injuries is unknown at this time,” Yates said in a press release. 

Asked about the death, Alabama Department of Corrections spokeswoman Kristi Simpson responded that Russo’s exact cause of death is pending an autopsy but that  “foul play is not suspected, and his death is not being investigated as a homicide at this time.” APR asked the department subsequent questions about the death and expects to get answers later today. 

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Alabama, the department underreports instances of homicides inside state prisons, misclassifies some deaths and simply doesn’t report others at all. 

“ADOC’s statistical reports do not reflect all deaths from prisoner-on-prisoner homicides. For example, in November 2020, a 48-year-old prisoner at Bullock was beaten and stabbed to death, the federal government’s lawsuit reads. “Additionally, in February 2021, a 38-year-old prisoner at St. Clair was stabbed to death in an open dormitory. ADOC officials confirmed both deaths resulted from prisoner assaults in public news reporting, but they are not reflected in ADOC’s monthly statistical reports.”

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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