Heavy Problems for Chattanooga’s Young and Old

By: Sid Sadler

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn (UTC/The Loop) – There’s a heavier problem on students nowadays when it comes to textbooks, and it’s not necessarily the cost.

It’s no secret that the high cost of textbooks, has been hampering students from all over the country. Currently, students are scrambling to find a website or place to buy back their textbooks. A problem that hasn’t really been addressed though, is the health problems that can occur carrying all those textbooks around.

Currently there is not a lot of academic literature on the effects of heavy backpacks on college students. However there have been numerous studies on children, and the health effects heavy backpacks have on them.

A New York Times Article on heavy backpack usage, found that, ” The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission calculated that carrying a 12-pound backpack to and from school and lifting it 10 times a day for an entire school year puts a cumulative load on youngsters’ bodies of 21,600 pounds — the equivalent of six mid-sized cars.”

Dr. Horne, Professor of Political Science at UTC said, ” I had to give my 5th grader my backpack to fit all their textbooks in.”

Other studies have found that teens carry, “10-15%” their body weight. Junior Emily Andrews, who is an exercise science major said, ” While cost is always important, it’s also important to look at the overall health effects that heavy books have on the body.”

Possible eBooks could ease the burden of heavy textbooks.

Possible eBooks could ease the burden of heavy textbooks.

These findings are obviously a little troublesome, but with any type of electronic book, there must be a way of getting the book in the first place. This can lead to another trouble, which is being able to afford a device that can display an electronic textbook in the first place.

Mitchell Frame sophomore at UTC said, ” Forcing students to get an iPad or a Kindle could be costly for students, if the teacher went the route of going all electronic for books.”

Another issue that arises is what happens if the book disappears from the online data base. Dr. Horne also said, “Professors really have no incentive to go online, because books could disappear.”

If for some reason a book disappears online, or is discontinued, then the professor will have definite issues when it comes to conducting class. The professor would have to either find another book, or simply adjust their teaching style. This could ultimately effect not only the professor, but the students in the class as well.

Another issue that could come up by using online textbooks, is the problem of online piracy. Online piracy is a big problem with the internet currently, and it would be hard to walk the line between pirated material and non-pirated material.

Advantages

  • Easier to carry
  • Less overall cost
  • Searching through content is made easier on student
  • It’s a ‘green’ investment

Disadvantages

  • Online Piracy
  • Screen glares
  • Risk of power outages

Either way you weigh it, there is much to be said about the topic of textbooks. There are various arguments out there supporting lowering costs for textbooks. However, health reasons might ultimately bring the downfall of the textbook as we know it today.

For other coverage about textbooks go to:

 

 

Let us Know How Heavy is Your Backpack?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More information released about flight 370

MALAYSIA (AP/UTC The Loop) - A summary of the questions answered, and still pending, about the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Monday announcement:

WHAT WE KNOW

THE PLANE CRASHED: Najib said satellite data showed the flight “ended in the southern Indian Ocean,” confirming that the Boeing 777 that disappeared more than two weeks ago went down in a remote corner of the ocean, “far from any possible landing sites.”

ITS LAST POSITION: A British company calculated satellite data obtained from the remote area of the ocean, using analysis never before used in an aviation investigation of this kind, and pinpointed the last spot the flight was seen in the air was in the middle of the ocean west of Perth, Australia.
malaysia-airlines
NO SURVIVORS: Najib left little doubt that all 239 crew and passengers had perished in the crash; the father of an aviation engineer on the flight said, “we accept the news of the tragedy. It is fate.”

QUESTIONS REMAIN

WHO AND HOW: Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possible explanation for what happened to the jet, but have said the evidence so far suggests it was deliberately turned back across Malaysia to the Strait of Malacca, with its communications systems disabled. They are unsure what happened next. Authorities are considering the possibilities including terrorism, sabotage, catastrophic mechanical failure or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board.

WHAT’S FLOATING IN THE OCEAN: The prime minister didn’t address whether investigators had confirmed floating objects in the ocean and images captured by several countries’ search parties, including that of France and China, were debris from the plane.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Unanimous Vote to Push Pension Plan Forward

By Andrea Jungels

CHATTANOOGA, TN (The Loop/UTC) – The debate has been raging for months and finally reached its culmination at last weeks city council meeting. The vote to amend Chattanooga fire and police workers’ pension fund passed unanimously and is one step closer to becoming reality.

Mayor Andy Berke says the cuts in funding are to save tax-payers money. Berke says roughly $227 million dollars are being trimmed.

Retired police officer Kirk Salter had passionate words about the decision.   “I’m hot and fired like a firecracker and I’m not through with them yet okay? From now on, I’m just telling you, Travis McDonough and Andy Berke are no friends to public safety and first responders. They made that straight from this point on.”

Officials with the Fire and Police Pension Board explain that the changes are”in line with what’s taking place all over the country.”  They defend the vote saying they will still be able to train and recruit high quality personnel for the police and fire departments.

City Council Approves Pension Task Force legislation

City Council Approves Pension Task Force legislation

Employee contributions are being raised nearly 40 percent and retirees’ cost of living adjustments are being cut.  The changes are all for a good cause, Berke and other officials reassure the community.

This vite was the first in three stages before the changes are implemented.

Please depend on us to keep you posted on all further developments in the pension debate.

 

Comment or questions?  Email Andrea Jungels

 

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Woman Complains to Cops About Bad Pot

By Andrea Jungels

LUFKIN, Texas (UTC The Loop/AP) — Police in East Texas have arrested a woman after she called them to complain about the quality of the marijuana she had purchased from a dealer.

Lufkin police Sgt. David Casper said Monday that an officer went to the home of 37-year-old Evelyn Hamilton to hear her complaint that the dealer refused to return her money after she objected that the drug was substandard.

Casper says she pulled the small amount of marijuana from her bra when the officer asked if she still had it.

Should marijuana be legalized so charges like these aren’t pressed?  Click here to take survey.

She was arrested Friday on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Hamilton said Monday she spent $40 on “seeds and residue.” She says she called police when she got no satisfaction from the dealer’s family.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Was Kentucky the best team all along?

 

Aaron Harrison lifts Kentucky to Championship game.

Aaron Harrison lifts Kentucky to Championship game.

By Jake Chapman

ARLINGTON, Texas (UTC/The Loop/AP) — No, this was not an instant replay, though it certainly is turning into a highlight loop that Aaron Harrison and his Kentucky teammates could get used to watching.

Harrison took a pass from his twin brother, Andrew, spotted up from NBA range and watched the ball rattle in for the lead with 5.7 seconds left Saturday night to lift the Wildcats to a 74-73 victory over Wisconsin in the Final Four.

It was a near carbon copy of his game-winner last weekend in the regional final against Michigan. It was every bit as big as the 3 he made the game before that to help Kentucky take the lead for good in the Sweet 16 against Louisville.

“You can’t be scared to miss, and you want to be that guy that wants to take the big shots,” Aaron Harrison said.

“He has that clutch gene,” Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker said.

Traevon Jackson had a last-second shot to try to beat the Wildcats (29-10), but the desperation jumper rimmed out, and once again Harrison found himself at the bottom of a dog pile at center court. Sophomore Alex Poythress’ leg bent backward in the scrum. He was icing his left knee afterward but said he’d be OK for Monday’s final.

Eighth-seeded Kentucky will play seventh-seeded UConn — the highest seed total to play for the title since they started putting numbers by the names back in 1979. The Wildcats, who missed March Madness last year, haven’t lost a tournament game since the 2011 semifinal against UConn.

“I know how good they are, but I don’t know how they play,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of his next opponent.

Second-seeded Wisconsin (30-8) set a Final Four record by going 95 percent from the free-throw line — 19 for 20. But that one miss cost the Badgers dearly. Jackson got Andrew Harrison to jump into him while attempting a 3-pointer with 16.4 seconds left. His first free throw rimmed out, and — after he made the next two — Wisconsin had a 73-71 lead and Kentucky had the ball.

Any doubt where it was going?

“Coach said wanted me to take the shot, my teammates have confidence in me, and I just fed off that,” Harrison said.

Against Louisville in the regional semifinal, Harrison was open in the corner when Julius Randle found him. He hit the go-ahead 3 with 39.1 seconds left on the way to a 74-69 win.

Two nights later, there were 2.3 seconds on the clock and Harrison was a few steps right of where he was Saturday when he took the pass from his brother. Michigan’s Caris LeVert hit Harrison’s hand as he shot from about 24 feet but the ball went in anyway. After that one, the freshman calmly backpedaled before his teammates reached him to congratulate.

This time, it was Josh Gasser in his face at around 25 feet — a big step back from where the NBA line would be. The ball clanged in and Harrison turned around and raised his hands over his head before running to the other end of the court.

A few minutes later, he was hugging his mom in the stands.

“He was pretty deep out there,” Gasser said. “He hadn’t really looked to pull up for a shot the entire game. I saw him start to rise up, and I tried to contest the best I could. I thought I did a good job, but he made another good shot.”

It was Harrison’s only attempt from 3 all night; the Wildcats went only 2 for 5 as a team.

James Young went to the rim hard in the first half and led Kentucky with 17 points. Randle finished with 16, but only five boards to snap his string of three straight double-doubles.

But Kentucky did damage in other ways on the inside, finding the answer for Wisconsin’s do-everything 7-footer, Frank Kaminsky, who was held to eight points and five rebounds.

Ben Brust and Dekker had 15 each for the Badgers, who came up a game short of their first appearance in the final since 1941.

Instead, it’s Kentucky going for its ninth national title and second in three years, with an almost completely rebuilt roster from 2012. It’s the way Calipari does it, like it or not, and it hasn’t all been easy sailing. The team that was ranked first in the preseason poll fell out of it completely for the start of March Madness.

Who wins it tonight: UCONN or Kentucky?

Only then, did the Wildcats start playing to their potential.

“They know I believe in them. Aaron knows,” Calipari said. “If you’ve watched us, we have a bunch of stars on this team.”

Harrison is the biggest of them in this tournament. If he chooses to leave after Monday, he’ll have first-round potential, though it won’t be his final numbers in this game — eight points, three rebounds — that will impress the scouts as much as his final shot.

“He was smiling, like he knew he was going to make it,” Andrew Harrison said. “He’s a big-time player. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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UConn, Notre Dame in Women’s NCAA Basketball Final

By Rose Street

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/The Loop) — Women’s basketball came away a winner Sunday night. After a season-long buildup, the NCAA tournament will be decided by the perfect championship game.

The undefeated titans of the sport this season will meet Tuesday night in an historic championship game when UConn plays Notre Dame. It will mark the first time in NCAA basketball history that unbeaten teams will play for a title when the former Big East rivals face each other.

“It is pretty amazing,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw told The Associated Press after her team beat Maryland 87-61. “So many of the media and fans have been looking at this all season long. It’s great that we’ve made it this far.

“Both of us remaining undefeated. See who the best team is.”

Who’s Gonna Win?

Said UConn guard From Moriah Jefferson: “Now we can finally talk about it. That has been the talk of this whole tournament and I guess it is finally here.”

The teams didn’t play during the regular season this year for the first time since 1995 as Notre Dame moved to the ACC. That helped set up the championship showdown that will put the sport in the spotlight.

“It looked to me like as the season went on it almost looked like it was inevitable to happen,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “It was supposed to happen. Our sport doesn’t have enough significant moments. … To have the spotlight on Tuesday on two teams that one is going to lose for the first time this year, it’s pretty remarkable when you think how hard it’s to do for one team much less two.”

Notre Dame (37-0) is one of the rare teams that has had success against the Huskies in recent history, winning seven of the past nine meetings, including beating UConn twice in the national semifinals. McGraw drew attention to that fact during the tournament selection show.

The Huskies (39-0) won the last one though, topping Notre Dame in the Final Four last season en route to the school’s eighth national championship. A UConn victory Tuesday night will be a record ninth for Auriemma, breaking a tie with Pat Summitt for most all-time in the women’s game. It will also cap the fifth perfect season for the Huskies and make them only the second team ever to go 40-0, joining Baylor which did it two seasons ago.

Auriemma has never lost a championship game.

Notre Dame will be trying for its second national championship. The Irish have had chances lately to winwin their first title since 2001, advancing to the national semifinals in four straight seasons. They lost in the championship game twice during that span.

They advanced to Tuesday night’s game with a convincing 87-61 victory over Maryland behind 28 points from senior All-American Kayla McBride.

Notre Dame played without senior Natalie Achonwa, who suffered a torn ACL in the regional final victory over Baylor.

Even without their star forward, the Irish dominated the Terrapins on the boards, outrebounding them in record fashion. Notre Dame had a 50-21 rebounding advantage, including a 19-4 mark on the offensive end. It was the widest rebounding margin ever in a Final Four game, shattering the previous mark of 19 set by Louisiana Tech in 1989. Maryland broke the national semifinals record for fewest rebounds in a game of 25 set by Minnesota in 2004.

They’ll need a similar effort against UConn and its imposing front line of Breanna Stewart and Stefanie Dolson.

The Huskies got off to a sluggish start against Stanford before taking control in the second half in a 75-56 victory. They probably can’t afford the same thing to happen for a fourth straight game if they hope to winwin that record title.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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“Blade Runner” trial marches on

By Taylor Ellis

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee/PRETORIA, South Africa (The Loop/AP) — Stifling sobs, Oscar Pistorius took the witness stand Monday in his murder trial and apologized to the family of the girlfriend he shot dead, describing himself as traumatized and now on antidepressant medication, and sometimes waking from nightmares to the “smell of blood.”

Pistorius’ voice quavered so much and was so low at the start of his testimony that Judge Thokozile Masipa asked him to speak up as, standing and addressing a packed courtroom, he talked of his remorse for having killed Reeva Steenkamp on Feb. 14, 2013.

Pistorius said he mistook her for an intruder when he fired four times through a locked toilet stall door in his home. Prosecutors said the double-amputee Olympian shot his lover as she screamed in terror after they had an argument in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day.

PIstorius and ex-girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

PIstorius and ex-girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

“There hasn’t been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven’t thought about your family,” the star athlete said as Steenkamp’s mother, June, looked straight at him in the courtroom, stone-faced.

“I wake up every morning and you’re the first people I think of, the first people I pray for … I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved,” Pistorius said after asking for permission to make the apology at the start of his testimony.

Prosecutors allege Pistorius, 27, murdered the 29-year-old model with premeditation by shooting her in the head, arm and hip after an argument and have sought to paint him as a hothead with an inflated sense of entitlement and an obsession with firearms.

Attempting to counter that, defense lawyer Barry Roux led Pistorius through an account of his life, with Pistorius describing some of the hardships he faced after having his lower legs amputated as a baby, the positive role of his mother, Sheila, and his grief when she died when Pistorius was a teenager. Pistorius also spoke about the sacrifices he had made for his athletics achievements, his work with charity and how religion was important to him.

The accounts contrasted with that of prosecutors who, through witness testimony, have painted a dramatically different picture of Pistorius, a man they say was often angry, who cheated on a former girlfriend and who shot a gun out of a moving car in 2012 after an altercation with police and then laughed about it.

Pistorius said he has been taking medication since the week after he killed Steenkamp and has trouble sleeping. He described one night when he went to hide in a closet after waking up in “a panic.”

“I climbed into a cupboard and I phoned my sister to come and sit by me, which she did for a while,” Pistorius said.

PIstorius during his trial

PIstorius during his trial

His testimony on day 17 of his trial in Pretoria came on the same day his defense opened its case. Legal experts said it was crucial to his case that he testify to explain why he shot Steenkamp. Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder for Steenkamp’s killing.

His voice broke again and he struggled to speak when he described how Steenkamp was “a blessing” in his life. Yet in cellphone messages revealed by the prosecution, Steenkamp had once said that Pistorius scared her.

Apart from his emotional apology at the start, Pistorius didn’t directly address the killing of Steenkamp. He will return Tuesday to continue testifying after the judge granted an adjournment because she said Pistorius looked “exhausted.” Pistorius said he hadn’t slept the night before.

“I’m just very tired at the moment …. I think it’s a lot of things going through my mind,” Pistorius said. “The weight of this is extremely overbearing.”

Pistorius’ testimony also addressed previous instances of crime that affected the runner and how he felt vulnerable because of them, an attempt to explain his claim that he reacted to what he thought was a dangerous intruder in his bathroom by shooting his 9 mm pistol.

He described how his family had “security concerns” when he was young and his mother slept with a gun under a pillow on her bed.

Pistorius said his family had been targeted by criminals over the years, citing incidents of house break-ins and carjackings, and said he had sometimes been followed by unidentified people while driving home. Pistorius also referred to an incident in which he was allegedly assaulted at a social function in late 2012 and had to have stitches on the back of his head.

At the start, Pistorius spoke in a soft, shaky voice while making his apology and describing what he said was his fragile state. Later, he grew more settled and confident as Roux led him through the questions about his childhood, his family, his track career and how he overcame his disability to run at top track meets.

Pistorius’s life story is one that impressed many people around the world, before he killed Steenkamp.

He was also asked by Roux to talk about a 2009 boat crash when he suffered serious facial injuries. He said the accident had a “massive impact,” and that it made him become fearful, withdrawn, more vigilant about personal safety and more focused on his running.

Prosecutors have provided a contrasting picture of Pistorius, with evidence indicating that he had been reckless with firearms in public and asked a friend to take the blame for him when a gun fired under a table in a busy restaurant while he was handling it weeks before he killed Steenkamp.

Is Pistorius guilty?

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Pistorius Testifies For Himself

By: Sid Sadler

CHATTANOOGA/PRETORIA, South Africa (AP/ The Loop) — Stifling sobs, Oscar Pistorius took the witness stand Monday in his murder trial and apologized to the family of the girlfriend he shot dead, describing himself as traumatized and now on antidepressant medication, and sometimes waking from nightmares to the “smell of blood.”

Pistorius’ voice quavered so much and was so low at the start of his testimony that Judge Thokozile Masipa asked him to speak up as, standing and addressing a packed courtroom, he talked of his remorse for having killed Reeva Steenkamp on Feb. 14, 2013.

Pistorius said he mistook her for an intruder when he fired four times through a locked toilet stall door in his home. Prosecutors said the double-amputee Olympian shot his lover as she screamed in terror after they had an argument in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day.

“There hasn’t been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven’t thought about your family,” the star athlete said as Steenkamp’s mother, June, looked straight at him in the courtroom, stone-faced.

“I wake up every morning and you’re the first people I think of, the first people I pray for … I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that night she felt loved,” Pistorius said after asking for permission to make the apology at the start of his testimony.

Prosecutors allege Pistorius, 27, murdered the 29-year-old model with premeditation by shooting her in the head, arm and hip after an argument and have sought to paint him as a hothead with an inflated sense of entitlement and an obsession with firearms.

Attempting to counter that, defense lawyer Barry Roux led Pistorius through an account of his life, with Pistorius describing some of the hardships he faced after having his lower legs amputated as a baby, the positive role of his mother, Sheila, and his grief when she died when Pistorius was a teenager. Pistorius also spoke about the sacrifices he had made for his athletics achievements, his work with charity and how religion was important to him.

The accounts contrasted with that of prosecutors who, through witness testimony, have painted a dramatically different picture of Pistorius, a man they say was often angry, who cheated on a former girlfriend and who shot a gun out of a moving car in 2012 after an altercation with police and then laughed about it.

Pistorius said he has been taking medication since the week after he killed Steenkamp and has trouble sleeping. He described one night when he went to hide in a closet after waking up in “a panic.”

“I climbed into a cupboard and I phoned my sister to come and sit by me, which she did for a while,” Pistorius said.

His testimony on day 17 of his trial in Pretoria came on the same day his defense opened its case. Legal experts said it was crucial to his case that he testify to explain why he shot Steenkamp. Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder for Steenkamp’s killing.

His voice broke again and he struggled to speak when he described how Steenkamp was “a blessing” in his life. Yet in cellphone messages revealed by the prosecution, Steenkamp had once said that Pistorius scared her.

Apart from his emotional apology at the start, Pistorius didn’t directly address the killing of Steenkamp. He will return Tuesday to continue testifying after the judge granted an adjournment because she said Pistorius looked “exhausted.” Pistorius said he hadn’t slept the night before.

“I’m just very tired at the moment …. I think it’s a lot of things going through my mind,” Pistorius said. “The weight of this is extremely overbearing.”

Pistorius’ testimony also addressed previous instances of crime that affected the runner and how he felt vulnerable because of them, an attempt to explain his claim that he reacted to what he thought was a dangerous intruder in his bathroom by shooting his 9 mm pistol.

He described how his family had “security concerns” when he was young and his mother slept with a gun under a pillow on her bed.

Pistorius said his family had been targeted by criminals over the years, citing incidents of house break-ins and carjackings, and said he had sometimes been followed by unidentified people while driving home. Pistorius also referred to an incident in which he was allegedly assaulted at a social function in late 2012 and had to have stitches on the back of his head.

At the start, Pistorius spoke in a soft, shaky voice while making his apology and describing what he said was his fragile state. Later, he grew more settled and confident as Roux led him through the questions about his childhood, his family, his track career and how he overcame his disability to run at top track meets.

Pistorius’s life story is one that impressed many people around the world, before he killed Steenkamp.

He was also asked by Roux to talk about a 2009 boat crash when he suffered serious facial injuries. He said the accident had a “massive impact,” and that it made him become fearful, withdrawn, more vigilant about personal safety and more focused on his running.

Prosecutors have provided a contrasting picture of Pistorius, with evidence indicating that he had been reckless with firearms in public and asked a friend to take the blame for him when a gun fired under a table in a busy restaurant while he was handling it weeks before he killed Steenkamp.

Is Oscar Pistorius Guilty?

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Former Marine Bakes to Death in NYC Jail Cell

By: Cody Dowler, Andrea Jungels

NEW YORK (AP/UTC-The Loop) — Jerome Murdough was just looking for a warm place to sleep on a chilly night last month when he curled up in an enclosed stairwell on the roof of a Harlem public housing project where he was arrested for trespassing.

A week later, the mentally ill homeless man was found dead in a Rikers Island jail cell that four city officials say had overheated to at least 100 degrees, apparently because of malfunctioning equipment.

The officials told The Associated Press that the 56-year-old former Marine was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication, which may have made him more vulnerable to heat. He also apparently did not open a small vent in his cell, as other inmates did, to let in cool air.

“He basically baked to death,” said one of the officials, who all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss specifics of the case.

The medical examiner’s office said an autopsy was inconclusive and that more tests were needed to determine Murdough’s exact cause of death. But the officials, all with detailed knowledge of the case, say initial indications from the autopsy and investigation point to extreme dehydration or heat stroke.

Advocates for mentally ill inmates in New York say the death represents the failure of the city’s justice system on almost every level: by arresting Murdough instead of finding him help, by setting bail at a prohibitive $2,500 and by not supervising him closely in what is supposed to be a special observation unit for inmates with mental illnesses.

Department of Correction spokesman Robin Campbell said in a statement that an internal investigation will look into all circumstances of Murdough’s death, “including issues of staff performance and the adequacy of procedures.”

Campbell acknowledged that the temperature in Murdough’s cell was “unusually high” and that action has been taken to fix mechanical problems to ensure safe temperatures, “particularly in areas housing vulnerable inmates.”

Murdough’s 75-year-old mother, Alma Murdough, said she did not learn of her son’s death until the AP contacted her last week, nearly a month after he died. His public defender was told of the death three days after the inmate was found, the DOC said.

“He was a very lovely, caring guy,” said Murdough, adding that her son had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and that she had not seen him in about three years.

“He had beer problems. Drinking beer. That was his downfall. Other than that, he was a very nice guy. He’d give you the shirt off his back.”

Family members say Murdough grew up in Queens and joined the Marine Corps right out of high school, doing at least one stint in Okinawa, Japan.

When he returned from the service, his family said, both his mental illness and thirst for alcohol became more pronounced, and he would often disappear for months at a time, finding warmth in hospitals, shelters and the streets.

“When he wanted to venture off, we let him, we allowed him to come and go,” recalled his sister, Cheryl Warner. “He always came back.”

Murdough’s criminal record included 11 misdemeanor convictions for trespassing, drinking in public and minor drug charges, said Ivan Vogel, a public defender who represented him at his arraignment on the trespassing charge.

According to the city officials, Murdough was locked alone into his 6-by-10 cinderblock cell at about 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, a week after his arrest. Because he was in the mental-observation unit, he was supposed to be checked every 15 minutes as part of suicide watch, they said. But Murdough was not discovered until four hours later, at about 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 15. He was slumped over in his bed and already dead.

When Murdough was found and his cell opened, his internal body temperature and the temperature in the cell were at least 100 degrees. Those temperatures could have been higher before he was discovered because the cell had been closed for several hours, the officials said.

Dr. Susi Vassallo, an associate professor at New York University School of Medicine and a national expert on heat-related deaths who monitors heat conditions at Rikers Island, said psychotropic medications can impair the body’s ability to cool itself by sweating, making it retain more heat than it should.

Exposure to intense heat for a couple of hours by someone on such medications could be fatal, she said.

Last year, only three Rikers inmates died from non-natural causes, according to Department of Correction statistics.

Of the 12,000 inmates who make up the nation’s second-largest jail system, about 40 percent are mentally ill, and a third of them suffer from serious mental problems the department said. Advocates and others have long argued that correction officers are not sufficiently trained to deal with mentally ill inmates whose needs are complex.

Catherine Abate, a member of the New York City Board of Correction, an agency charged with overseeing the city’s jails, suggested at a recent public meeting that Murdough should have been referred him to psychiatric care, not to Rikers Island.

Jennifer J. Parish, an attorney at the New York-based Urban Justice Center’s Mental Health Project, said Murdough appeared to be a man in need of care.

“So Mr. Murdough violated the trespass law. So he suffered the consequences by going to jail,” Parish said. “But the jail system committed more serious harm to him. And the question is, ‘Will they ever be held responsible?’”

Wanda Mehala, another of Murdough’s sisters, said the family wants an explanation.

“We want justice for what was done,” she said. “He wasn’t just some old homeless person on the street. He was loved. He had a life. He had a family. He had feelings.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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NYC inmate ‘baked to death’ in cell

By Taylor Ellis and Nick Porter

CHATTANOOGA/NEW YORK (AP/The Loop) — Jerome Murdough was just looking for a warm place to sleep on a chilly night last month when he curled up in an enclosed stairwell on the roof of a Harlem public housing project where he was arrested for trespassing.

A week later, the mentally ill homeless man was found dead in a Rikers Island jail cell that four city officials say had overheated to at least 100 degrees, apparently because of malfunctioning equipment.

The officials told The Associated Press that the 56-year-old former Marine was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication, which may have made him more vulnerable to heat. He also apparently did not open a small vent in his cell, as other inmates did, to let in cool air.

“He basically baked to death,” said one of the officials, who all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss specifics of the case.

The medical examiner’s office said an autopsy was inconclusive and that more tests were needed to determine Murdough’s exact cause of death. But the officials, all with detailed knowledge of the case, say initial indications from the autopsy and investigation point to extreme dehydration or heat stroke.

Advocates for mentally ill inmates in New York say the death represents the failure of the city’s justice system on almost every level: by arresting Murdough instead of finding him help, by setting bail at a prohibitive $2,500 and by not supervising him closely in what is supposed to be a special observation unit for inmates with mental illnesses.

Department of Correction spokesman Robin Campbell said in a statement that an internal investigation will look into all circumstances of Murdough’s death, “including issues of staff performance and the adequacy of procedures.”

Campbell acknowledged that the temperature in Murdough’s cell was “unusually high” and that action has been taken to fix mechanical problems to ensure safe temperatures, “particularly in areas housing vulnerable inmates.”

Murdough’s 75-year-old mother, Alma Murdough, said she did not learn of her son’s death until the AP contacted her last week, nearly a month after he died. His public defender was told of the death three days after the inmate was found, the DOC said.

“He was a very lovely, caring guy,” said Murdough, adding that her son had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and that she had not seen him in about three years.

“He had beer problems. Drinking beer. That was his downfall. Other than that, he was a very nice guy. He’d give you the shirt off his back.”

Family members say Murdough grew up in Queens and joined the Marine Corps right out of high school, doing at least one stint in Okinawa, Japan.

When he returned from the service, his family said, both his mental illness and thirst for alcohol became more pronounced, and he would often disappear for months at a time, finding warmth in hospitals, shelters and the streets.

“When he wanted to venture off, we let him, we allowed him to come and go,” recalled his sister, Cheryl Warner. “He always came back.”

Murdough’s criminal record included 11 misdemeanor convictions for trespassing, drinking in public and minor drug charges, said Ivan Vogel, a public defender who represented him at his arraignment on the trespassing charge.

According to the city officials, Murdough was locked alone into his 6-by-10 cinderblock cell at about 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, a week after his arrest. Because he was in the mental-observation unit, he was supposed to be checked every 15 minutes as part of suicide watch, they said. But Murdough was not discovered until four hours later, at about 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 15. He was slumped over in his bed and already dead.

When Murdough was found and his cell opened, his internal body temperature and the temperature in the cell were at least 100 degrees. Those temperatures could have been higher before he was discovered because the cell had been closed for several hours, the officials said.

Dr. Susi Vassallo, an associate professor at New York University School of Medicine and a national expert on heat-related deaths who monitors heat conditions at Rikers Island, said psychotropic medications can impair the body’s ability to cool itself by sweating, making it retain more heat than it should.

Exposure to intense heat for a couple of hours by someone on such medications could be fatal, she said.

Last year, only three Rikers inmates died from non-natural causes, according to Department of Correction statistics.

Of the 12,000 inmates who make up the nation’s second-largest jail system, about 40 percent are mentally ill, and a third of them suffer from serious mental problems the department said. Advocates and others have long argued that correction officers are not sufficiently trained to deal with mentally ill inmates whose needs are complex.

Catherine Abate, a member of the New York City Board of Correction, an agency charged with overseeing the city’s jails, suggested at a recent public meeting that Murdough should have been referred him to psychiatric care, not to Rikers Island.

Jennifer J. Parish, an attorney at the New York-based Urban Justice Center’s Mental Health Project, said Murdough appeared to be a man in need of care.

“So Mr. Murdough violated the trespass law. So he suffered the consequences by going to jail,” Parish said. “But the jail system committed more serious harm to him. And the question is, ‘Will they ever be held responsible?’”

Wanda Mehala, another of Murdough’s sisters, said the family wants an explanation.

“We want justice for what was done,” she said. “He wasn’t just some old homeless person on the street. He was loved. He had a life. He had a family. He had feelings.”

 

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