Covering Louisiana

Jan 27, 2011 11:03 AM

2 Webster Parish inmates' deaths investigated

MINDEN, La. (AP) - Webster Parish sheriff's officials are looking into the recent deaths of two inmates incarcerated at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center.

In a news release sent to The Times of Shreveport, Sheriff Gary Sexton said Anthony Bailey, 43, a state corrections inmate approved for a work release program, required emergency care shortly after arrival at his work location on Wednesday. Bailey was transported to a local hospital, where he died despite attempts to stabilize him.

Robert Wells, 50, also a state corrections inmate, was found unresponsive in his BDCC dormitory Friday. Prison officials rushed him to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

"I am very concerned," Sexton said in the release. "While this could just be coincidence I realize that having two deaths within our facility in a matter of days is uncommon and deserves great attention."

According to BDCC's medical staff, neither man had serious health problems or illnesses, but both reported a similar pattern of mild symptoms within 24 to 36 hours before their deaths. Some of these symptoms included mild indigestion and elevated blood pressure for which they were receiving treatment and time for rest.

"It's that kind of detail that is particularly concerning," said Sexton.

Bailey and Wells were housed in separate dormitories and worked in separate locations. Both shared a race and age range that launched them into a high-risk category for cardiovascular illnesses, Sexton said.

However, the sheriff is examining all possibilities, including narcotics use. "We did an additional and very extensive shakedown of the entire facility today in search of drugs or any other evidence that may indicate a direct cause to their deaths," he said. "We did find tobacco that turned up in the search of the dorms, but nothing else to significantly link to this."

Autopsies will be conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Frank Peretti in Little Rock, Ark. Sexton asked for a comprehensive toxicology and pathological exam of both men.

"Of course we all hate to lose anybody," Sexton said. "I hope this is just all unusual and terrible coincidence, but if it turns out to be something we can prevent from happening to others I want to be the first to know. My heart goes out to their families while we await more information related to their deaths. It"s a terrible thing that I hope we can get more answers on soon."

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