Inmate charged with beating cellmate in city jail

victim, 23, dies in hospital

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June 25, 2005|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Jail authorities filed criminal charges against an inmate accused of severely beating another inmate, who later died, in a cell they shared at the Baltimore City Detention Center, according to court documents released yesterday.

Lonnie Edwards, 20, of Baltimore was charged with attempted murder and assault Thursday evening, hours before Lennard Benjamin, 23, was pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Benjamin was being held without bail on a charge of attempted murder.

Joseph Sviatko, a spokesman for the city state's attorney's office, said prosecutors have since advised jail authorities to file a first-degree murder charge against Edwards in connection with Benjamin's death.

According to charging documents filed in court, the suspect "admitted to being engaged in a physical confrontation" with Benjamin on Tuesday. At 5:20 p.m. that day, a correctional officer found Edwards standing over Benjamin, who was lying face down "in an unresponsive state," the documents state.

Edwards, who was being detained on a drug charge, is being held without bail, Sviatko said.

The death of Benjamin brings further scrutiny to conditions at state-run jail facilities in Baltimore, which include the detention center and the adjacent Central Booking and Intake Center.

One of Benjamin's aunts, Evelyn Horton, expressed concern yesterday that the circumstances of her nephew's death might differ from the version presented in the charging documents. Horton said Benjamin's family will press state corrections officials for more answers and that relatives have hired an attorney.

She said the attack reflected deeper problems at the state-run facility that stem from overcrowding, inmate violence and staffing issues.

"If [state officials] don't fix it and just put a Band-Aid on it, it's going to continue to fester," Horton said. "What happened to Lennard is going to happen again to someone else there."

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