A year ago this week, Latandra Ellington, a 36-year-old mother of four, filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Corrections, alleging that a corrections officer had threatened to kill her.
Less than 24 hours later, she was found dead in a confinement cell at Lowell Correctional Institution, the second-largest women’s prison in the nation, located in Ocala.
A lawsuit filed by Ellington’s family last week claims that Ellington, who had only seven months left on her 22-year prison term, had been beaten, subjected to inhumane treatment and did not receive proper medical care.
The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy, Barbara Wolf, ruled last year that Ellington died as result of heart disease. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which investigated her death, found no evidence of foul play.
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Ellington died on Oct. 1, 2014, 10 days after writing a letter to her family alleging that an officer — identified in her note as a Sgt. Q —repeatedly threatened to beat her with a radio. The FDLE probe suggested that Ellington had angered the officer, later identified as Patrick Quercioli, because she had caught him having sex with an inmate.
After receiving Ellington’s letter, her aunt, Algerine Jennings, called the prison and demanded that officials protect Ellington. She was placed in protective confinement that same day, on Sept. 30, but was found unresponsive in her cell at 11:15 a.m. the next day.
Her family, suspecting she was murdered, paid for a second autopsy, this one private. The toxicology report showed that she had lethal levels of the blood pressure medicine amlodopine in her system, according to the lawsuit.
The family contends that Ellington also had excessive bruising, a cut on her face and other signs of abuse. The suit claims that the prison’s culture of physical, sexual and mental abuse had created an atmosphere of deliberate indifference among corrections officers and other staff.
Quercioli, who had a criminal record prior to being hired by FDC, has since left the department. Neither he, nor anyone else, was ever disciplined in connection with Ellington’s death.
Ellington was among 346 inmates who died in Florida prison’s last year, a record high.