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$2 Million Deal Reached In Rikers Island Hot Cell Death

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The city on Friday reached a $2.25 million settlement with the mother of a mentally ill, homeless former U.S. Marine who died earlier this year in a 101-degree jail cell, the comptroller said.

Jerome Murdough, 56, died in a mental observation unit on Rikers Island jail. He was supposed to be checked on every 15 minutes, but officials said he wasn't checked on for at least four hours. He was found slumped at the foot of his bed with a pool of vomit and blood on the floor on Feb. 15 with an internal body temperature of 103 degrees.

His mother, Alma, filed initial papers to sue the city for $25 million over her son's death.

$2 Million Deal Reached In Rikers Island Hot Cell Death

"Following a thorough review of the claim and facts of this case, my office has reached a settlement with the estate of Jerome Murdough,'' City Comptroller Scott Stringer said. "A mother lost a son, the city lost a citizen. It is my hope that this settlement provides some small measure of closure for the family of Mr. Murdough. The expedited resolution of this case is in the best interest of all parties.''

"On behalf of the city, I am sorry for your loss,'' Stringer told Alma Murdough.

"This is a very awful thing I'm going through,'' she said softly. "I'm sorry I cannot say any more.''

The city did not admit liability as part of the settlement.

As WCBS 880's Jim Smith reported, Alma Murdough initially intended to sue for $25 million.

"We spent time with his mother today and I do believe the family believes this is a fair and just settlement," Stringer told 1010 WINS Friday.

The Associated Press was first to report on suspicions of Murdough's death. He died a week after he was sent to Rikers on a misdemeanor trespassing arrest after being unable to pay $2,500 bail. An official, speaking to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the official wasn't permitted to discuss the case, said at the time Murdough "basically baked to death.''

He had suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, according to his family, and was on psychotropic drugs that experts say make people on them more sensitive to heat.

The medical examiner ruled the death was caused by hyperthermia due to environmental exposure to heat. His medication also played a role. The death was ruled accidental.

Murdough's death and the death of another mentally ill inmate who died after sexually mutilating himself while locked alone for seven days in a Rikers cell last fall have prompted calls for jail reform. City Council hearings were convened to examine violent conditions at the jail complex and treatment of mentally ill inmates.

"We need fundamental, real reform at Rikers Island,'' Stringer said.

"We will continue to work to continue to work to improve conditions at Rikers. It's the least we can do out of respect for those who have been victims of Rikers mismanagement," Stringer added.

Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the situation in the city's Correction Department "very bad."

He said his administration inherited "an incredibly problematic situation" and said "It's going to take a lot of work to fix."

On Monday, the embattled top uniformed officer in the New York City Department of Correction announced that he will retire on Dec. 1.

Chief of Department William Clemmons almost immediately came under scrutiny following his May promotion by jails Commissioner Joseph Ponte.

Clemmons was one of two supervisors in 2012 who omitted hundreds of inmate fights from statistics turned over to federal authorities investigating violence on Rikers Island.

Lawmakers were outraged when he didn't attend an Oct. 8 oversight hearing. He was on vacation.

One lawmaker told Ponte that Clemmons' promotion didn't instill confidence in change.

In a statement, Ponte said Clemmons was an able leader who helped institute reforms. He called him "a model of stability in a tumultuous time."

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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