Inmate’s Family Sues after Prison Death

( – Forty-three-year-old Brandon Dotson was found dead at the Ventress Correctional Facility in Alabama in mid-November on the same day he was to be considered for parole. If that wasn’t disturbing enough, upon receipt of his body, the family retained an independent pathologist to do their own autopsy and discovered that his heart had been removed. His body was also severely decomposed indicating improper handling and storage.

His family is suing the Alabama Department of Corrections and individuals responsible for his care including the warden of the facility. Dotson had served 19 years of a 99-year prison sentence for burglary with a parole violation and was eligible for parole on the day his body was discovered.

The family stated that decomposition was so extreme they could not have an open-casket funeral, and many of his loved ones could not give him a proper farewell, including his daughter and mother who are now plaintiffs in the suit.

The suit accuses all parties involved of failing to perform their required duties. They’re seeking unspecified damages.

The complaint highlights that either the DOC or someone employed by them had removed Dotson’s heart without permission. The lack of his heart makes a proper cause of death difficult to determine. The independent autopsy also noticed there was bruising around his head and neck which indicated blunt force trauma.

The complaint alleges that the removal of the heart constitutes intentional or reckless mishandling of evidence which impeded their independent investigation to determine the cause of death. The family suspects it may have been given or sold to the Birmingham Heersink School of Medicine for research or educational purposes.

The complaint highlighted how the family sought the return of the body for days, filing the appropriate paperwork immediately. It wasn’t released until five days after Dotson’s death, sans heart and decomposing. His mother said that when she finally got to see his remains he was unrecognizable suggesting he barely looked human.

Dotson alleged that another inmate was targeting him and he complained about it in the days prior to his death, according to the suit. Dotson’s brother also reported that the warden “expressed surprise” when he requested the body. The warden said at the time that many families don’t collect the remains of inmates who die in jail.

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