Autopsy: Heat Killed DOC Inmate
Marcia Powell's Core Temp. Rose To 108 Degrees, Report Says
UPDATED: 8:57 am MST September 1, 2009
PHOENIX — An autopsy performed on a state prison inmate who died after spending nearly four hours in the Arizona heat said it was heat exposure and dehydration that killed her.
Marcia Powell, 48, died last May, about 10 hours after she collapsed in an outdoor, unshaded holding cell at the Perryville prison in Goodyear.
Her body's core temperature had risen to 108 degrees, according to the newly-released autopsy report.
The autopsy revealed Powell had first and second-degree burns on her face, chest and arms.
The report also turned up traces of medication in Powell’s blood for treating Parkinson’s disease and depression.
Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan said at the time Powell was left in the cell nearly twice as long as she should have under department policy. He placed three officers on administrative leave pending a criminal investigation.
Ryan said Powell's cell was 20 yards from a staffed control room from where corrections officers should have been watching her.
Powell arrived at the Perryville prison in August 2008.
Powell was placed alone in the cell while being moved to an onsite detention unit after seeing a prison psychologist. Ryan said a disturbance at the detention unit prompted Powell's placement in the holding cell. He would not elaborate on the nature of the disturbance.
Ryan said officers gave Powell bottled water, as required under prison policy. Investigators will try to determine how much water she was given and whether she drank it.
Officers did not remove her after two hours as they should have done under department policy, according to Ryan.
"It is intended to be temporary," Ryan said. "It is not intended to be a place where they are held for an inordinate amount of time."
Powell had been in and out of state prisons and had a long history of mental illness, Ryan said.
Reporter Greg Gurule contributed to this story.