No suspects yet in death of inmate

Man was fatally beaten in city's pre-release unit

investigation continues

August 31, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

State prison officials are continuing to investigate the fatal beating of a 39-year-old man who was apparently attacked as he lay sleeping in his bed at the Baltimore Pre-Release Unit on Aug. 18.

Douglas A. Smith of O'Donnell Heights had three months left to serve on a parole violation when he was found mortally wounded in his dormitory bed.

He lapsed into a coma after emergency surgery and died Aug. 23 at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Prison officials said Smith appeared to have been beaten in the head with a stool. The dormitory where Smith was housed has sleeping quarters for up to 27 prisoners, some of whom are being questioned in connection with the attack, officials said.

Ronald Leverette, a deputy spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said a criminal investigation is under way.

"The internal investigative unit, which has full police powers, is conducting an investigation that is continuing," Leverette said. "They are questioning both staff and inmates alike. No conclusion has been reached at this time."

Smith was convicted of burglary in 1997 and was sentenced to a 3 1/2 -year term. He was released early but was sent back to prison last year for a parole violation.

He was due to be released again in November and was housed in a pre-release work unit, which allows prisoners to leave prison grounds for work-release jobs.

At the end of the day, Smith and the other work-release inmates would go back to the pre-release unit, at Greenmount Avenue and Madison Street.

David O. Smith, a Baltimore businessman and the victim's brother, said he is upset that investigators haven't found the killer.

"It's not that hard, the place is not that big," Smith said.

Smith also wondered why inmates continued to go back and forth to work assignments in public places after the fatal beating. About 92 inmates went to regular outside work assignments the week after Smith's death. One man escaped on Aug. 20 and remains at large, Leverette said.

Leverette said a count of all 201 inmates, including Smith, was made by prison guards after the attack.

The man who escaped has been eliminated as a suspect, Leverette said.

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