Mother of veteran who died in hot jail cell plans $25m lawsuit

Alma Murdough said her son was yelling for help.
Alma Murdough said her son was yelling for help.

NEW YORK — The mother for a mentally ill, homeless veteran who was found dead in a 101-degree New York City jail cell said Friday that she was angry at city officials for not keeping her son safe and announced plans for a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

‘‘I know he was yelling for help and nobody ever came,’’ Alma Murdough, 75, said at a news conference.

Her son, Jerome Murdough, 56, was jailed at the Rikers Island complex on a misdemeanor trespassing charge and was unable to make bail. He was discovered unresponsive in his cell in the early hours of Feb. 15, and a preliminary investigation found that his internal body temperature was 103 degrees and that the cell was 101.


In court papers filed Friday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, her attorney took a step toward suing the city, asking a judge to prohibit city officials from erasing any recordings regarding the death of his client’s son and to preserve and obtain all evidence — including 911 communications, photos, video, and logbooks.

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The lawyer, Derek Sells, has argued that Murdough’s death was caused by carelessness and negligence by Department of Correction employees. The death was preventable, Sells said Friday. ‘‘That’s a very basic concept: Keep inmates safe,’’ he said. ‘‘And that’s what Rikers Island has failed to do, time and time again.’’

In a statement, mayoral spokeswoman Marti Adams said the administration would improve its efforts to make sure the DOC treated inmates appropriately.

‘‘Mr. Murdough was a Marine veteran, and his unfortunate death was a tragedy for this entire city,’’ she said.

Prosecutors in the Bronx are investigating the death.


Corrections officials have declined to comment, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

Associated Press