Inmate found dead in his cell Relatives question Jessup prison officials' account of incident

July 13, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The family of a convicted killer found dead in his Jessup prison cell is questioning an account provided by corrections officials.

Authorities said there was no obvious sign of foul play in the death of Richard W. Willoughby, 37, of Annapolis, although bruises and swelling were noted when his body was found at the House of Correction at 7: 18 a.m. Thursday.

Although an autopsy was inconclusive, prison officials are awaiting test results from the state medical examiner's office while state police and the Department of Correction investigate the death, corrections spokesman David Towers said Friday.

Towers said Willoughby's body was discovered when guards were conducting a morning head count.

Willoughby's father, Richard Willoughby, said a man who identified himself as his son's cellmate gave a different account in a late-night telephone call.

He said the caller informed the Willoughby family in Federalsburg that "Ricky" had accidentally fallen Wednesday night and hit his head and, after breakfast Thursday, vomited and fell on the floor.

The cellmate tried to revive him and "screamed for 40 minutes before anybody would help," the elder Willoughby said. It was another 10 to 15 minutes before guards opened the cell door, he quoted the caller as saying.

Willoughby was sentenced to life without parole last September after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the April 15, 1995, death of retired nurse Katherine Huntt Ryon, 74.

According to evidence, Ryon was strangled with a dog leash after letting Willoughby and his roommate, James McGee, 43, a longtime friend of her family, into her Wild Rose Shores home.

McGee, whose mother had been close friends with Ryon, brought Ricky Willoughby to the victim's house seeking money to buy drugs and directed the killing after she told them that she had no money for them, according to testimony at McGee's trial.

McGee, who had inherited a $1.2 million trust fund from his mother but had limited access to the money, also was given life without parole.

Willoughby said his son had been a promising guitarist, but came back from a year of music school in California in the early 1980s with a drug problem and was hospitalized several times for mental problems.

Pub Date: 7/13/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.