LAVONNE MILLER

by Julian Heicklen

The Coroner's Report from Greene County states that LaVonne A. Miller, born October 9, 1974, died from asphyxiation at 4:23 PM on December 16, 1995. A sheet was wrapped about his neck. One end was tied to an air conditioning duct. The patient jumped from a metal toilet.

On or about December 16, 1995, inmate Anthony Williams AY­6759 witnessed a prisoner named LaVonne Miller being beaten by correctional officers (CO) for asking for some clothing to cover his naked body in RHU F-pod. Mr. Williams and an inmate named White had called out of their cell doors to stop the abuse. They pushed their cell buttons for medical, but prison officials had turned them off. The next day a block worker inmate and CO Kennedy found inmate Miller dead. They stated that he hung himself.

Inmate Rick Neil Tucker BC­1314 was requested by Miller's widow to investigate the death. Mr. Tucker was not in F-block at that time, but he investigated to the best of his ability.

According to Mr. Tucker, Miller was a 21-year old black youth of small physical stature due to be released from prison in September 1996. This fact itself makes it doubtful that he committed suicide. Mr. Tucker emphasizes that he did not know Miller, but investigated the case for his widow in 1996. He did not keep records of his correspondence with her, so he reported from memory.

A rumor was started that guards murdered Miller, but they did not, at least not directly. Mr. Miller did hang himself, but the guards may have driven him to do so. It also may be that Miller only wanted to appear suicidal to get out of F-block, as others had done, intending to get caught in the act, but slipped.

Mr. Miller was a rather passive, friendly, and open young man. Just an hour before the "discovery" he had been socializing with his peers through the door. He had given no indication to anyone that he had been contemplating suicide. Conversely, he had been looking forward to going home.

Guards in F-block had been intimidating, harassing, and teasing Miller. Allegedly, they also were physically abusive, which is common in F-block. Shortly before his death, the guards had advised Miller that hospital tests confirmed that he had the aids virus. This was not true, but apparently Miller believed them. This combined with the preceding physical and mental abuse may have driven Miller to suicide or to fake an attempt at suicide. Mr. Miller had no history of mental illness.

According to Mr. Tucker, it was impossible for guards to have murdered Miller. They could not have entered his cell without being seen. The closest inmate witness was Michael Ondesko BT­5780, who could see directly into Miller's cell. An attempt by Heicklen to contact Mr. Ondesko was unsuccessful.