In a wrongful-death lawsuit, the mother of a murdered inmate at Red Onion State Prison accuses the guards of helping a known killer set up her son’s strangulation in 2010.
In return for favors that made their jobs easier, the guards allowed the attacker to both slip a noose onto the prison’s recreation yard and orchestrate which inmates would witness the murder, the lawsuit claims. The guards then refrained from checking on them for more than an hour.
“The murder … could not have happened without the intentional participation, complicity or deliberate indifference of all these Defendants [guards],” the lawsuit states.
As a result, Aaron A. Cooper, 26, who was serving 34 years for a string of robberies and carjackings, died July 28, 2010, without anyone screaming for help or coming to his rescue.
His mother,Kim Strickland, seeks $ 290 million in compensatory damages and $ 10 million in punitive damages in a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Big Stone Gap against Department of Corrections officials and guards.
The killer is Robert C. Gleason Jr., now awaiting execution onVirginia’s death row for strangling cellmate Harvey Watson, 63, on May 8, 2009, while at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap and then Cooper, slightly more than a year later while at Red Onion in Pound.
He was initially sentenced to life without parole in 2008 for shooting a man to death inAmherstCounty.
At Red Onion, Gleason, 42, strangled Cooper with a braided bed sheet threaded through the chain-link wall shared by their individual recreation cages.
According to the lawsuit, the guards “left their posts intentionally, arranged for others to do so or deliberately chose not to respond to [...]