ST. LOUIS -- The body of an inmate who hanged himself at a St. Louis halfway house remained undiscovered for hours while corrections employees streamed Netflix movies on state computers and skipped security checks, according to records obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The Post-Dispatch reports that it obtained an abridged portion of an inspector general’s report into the October death of 41-year-old David Garceau through an open records request. More than 50 hours of surveillance video that was reviewed as part of the investigation showed that movement in Garceau’s cell ceased at 7:29 p.m. on Oct. 23. But paramedics didn’t pronounce him dead for 10 hours.
Garceau died at the 550-bed St. Louis Community Release Center, which is run by the Division of Probation and Parole and serves as a halfway house for offenders who don’t have a home plan after prison release, the paper reports.
The surveillance video also showed workers weren’t checking on Garceau even while filling out a log claiming they had. Garceau had been caught with suspected synthetic marijuana, though it’s unclear if that’s why he was being housed alone in Administrative Segregation.
Missouri Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe declined through a spokesman to comment. But she said earlier this year in a news release that she was “concerned about the circumstances” and vowed to take action “swiftly against responsible staff.”
Several people have been fired or resigned, including the guard who was on duty in the area when Garceau hanged himself. A review of computer usage during her eight-hour shift found 418 pages of detailed internet access, including use of Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn and streaming media for almost five hours.
Garceau was released from prison for an arson and burglary conviction in September and stayed with his father near the Lake of the Ozarks until he cut himself. After being sent to a hospital to be treated for mental illness, he went to the St. Louis release center on Oct. 18. According to the investigative report, Garceau was prescribed eight medications. There was no record that he received his medications Oct. 20, 21 or 22. The report — which cited broader problems with protocols related to medicine — said Garceau was given medication Oct. 23 at 8:15 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., right before he hanged himself.
LaTasha Poole, an employee who was among those fired, said she had no idea that Garceau was supposed to take medications.
“Maybe nobody would have been watching TV that night if we knew that there was somebody who was suicidal,” said Poole, who told the Post-Dispatch that it was her first night working in Administrative Segregation and that she lacked proper training.
Surveillance video shows she skipped security checks before finally finding Garceau in his cell. She was accused of surfing the internet and watching the movie “Blue Streak” on Netflix. She told an investigator that it seemed to be OK to use the computer in this manner because she watched the movie with her immediate supervisor, who also was fired.
St. Louis police also investigated. No criminal charges were filed, and the case is inactive.