Pedri releases details on Luzerne County prison deaths

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | July 19th, 2016 4:31 pm

WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri disclosed more details about a Monday night altercation in the county prison that led to the deaths of corrections officer Kristopher Moules and inmate Timothy Darnelle Gilliam Jr., describing it as a “freak accident.”

Pedri said the prison’s investigation showed Gilliam was on the fifth floor of the facility when he and Moules exchanged words before a “brief altercation” ensued.

The altercation lasted seconds and spilled out into a common area near an elevator, he said.

Guards on other floors were summoned to assist, and another arrived within seconds.

As the two guards tried to detain Gilliam, Gilliam and Moules smashed through the closed elevator door and fell several floors down the elevator shaft to their death, Pedri said.

The other guard also came “very close” to falling into the shaft.

Pedri said the elevator had a valid inspection certificate. The state Department of Labor and Industry conducted an inspection of the elevator in April and found only a minor “housekeeping” deficiency that was corrected by staff. An outside contractor also completed a load test of the elevator on July 14.

Pedri said “something happened” that caused the door to open, and the county has retained an expert to identify the problem. He promised to publicly release the expert’s findings and implement any recommended corrective action.

For now, the elevator has been blocked off and shut down. There are two elevators in the facility.

Pedri said Moules was “just beginning his career” and was proud of his new job.

He said he will revive a push to build a new prison to replace the aging structure and pledged the new prison will be named after Moules.

The county council has not actively revived past discussions about a new prison because they face $351 million in outstanding debt repayments.

State police continue to investigate the matter.

“This is a tragic day in Luzerne County,” Pedri said, noting county flags are flying at half mast.

Luzerne County Correctional Facility. 5/5/16. Sean McKeag | Times Leader County Correctional Facility. 5/5/16. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.