Changes recommended after teen inmate's death
A state agency releases a report calling for training
and equipment after the incident at the Cypress Creek
By JIM ROSS, Times Staff Writer
Published April 14, 2006
LECANTO - The Cypress Creek juvenile detention center should
strongly reenforce some safety messages to its staff, the
Department of Juvenile Justice's inspector general says after
investigating the death of a 17-year-old inmate last year.
Staffers should be "instructed on a recurring basis the
importance of calling 911 immediately if a situation appears to
be life threatening," the report says.
A guard found Willie Lawrence Durden III cold and
unresponsive in his cell, but 20 minutes passed before staffers
The guard said he initially thought Durden was playing a
An autopsy showed Durden died of natural causes from a heart
abnormality. His body showed no sign of abuse. A toxicology
screen was negative for drugs.
Cypress should continue its quarterly first aid drills for
staffers, with special emphasis on cases like this one, where an
inmate is found "down and unresponsive."
The state should consider buying automated external
defibrillators and training staffers to use them at Cypress
Creek and all juvenile correctional facilities.
These machines can shock the heart back into rhythm. Such a
machine was not used for Durden, though a guard did perform CPR
while awaiting paramedics.
Last month, the state reported that Durden died of natural
causes related to ventricular arrhythmia, which is an abnormal
electrical conduction that prevents the heart from pumping
The arrhythmia was caused by a thickening of the walls of the
heart and an enlargement of the size of the chambers.
That information came from the medical examiner. The
inspector general reviewed the performance of G4S Youth Services
LLC, the company that operates Cypress Creek on the state's
The inspector general's office, whose report was released
Thursday, interviewed guards, reviewed surveillance tapes and
examined official accounts of what happened Oct. 13 at the
facility, which houses high-risk juvenile offenders.
Durden showed no health problems and seemed fine during his
time at Cypress Creek. There were no problems Oct. 12 and early
Oct. 13, guards and fellow inmates told investigators.
At 4:08 a.m., guard Josephus Johnson paused at Durden's cell,
the surveillance tape showed. Johnson said Durden had not moved
since the last bed check.
The guard opened the door, called Durden, shook him, but got
no response. The inmate was cold and had a faint pulse, if any,
Johnson told investigators.
"Johnson stated he wished he had immediately started CPR,"
the report says. "But he was unsure if (Durden) was playing
games, as other youth in the past have played."
He called for a supervisor but didn't convey any possible
emergency, the report said. John Esteves arrived at 4:18 a.m. He
told investigators he yelled Durden's name, shook him, but got
no response. He couldn't detect a pulse.
Esteves called for another employee, Matthew Yuhas. He
arrived at 4:28 a.m., the tape showed. He couldn't detect a
pulse and started CPR.
At 4:30 a.m., 911 was called.
Paramedics entered the cell area at 4:44 a.m. Durden was
declared dead on arrival at Citrus Memorial Health System.
Times staff writer Abbie Vansickle contributed to this