“Regarding the terrible tragedy of Mr. Murdough, you know, it’s almost a perfect storm of the city’s failed policies of homelessness, mental health, veterans’ services and corrections,” said City Councilman Rory Lancman, noting that Rikers Island has become the de facto institution where the city’s mentally ill end up.
Murdough, who was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication, was found dead in the early hours of Feb. 15, four city officials told the AP. More tests are needed to determine exactly how he died, the medical examiner’s office said. But the officials, all with detailed knowledge of the case, said preliminary findings point to extreme dehydration.
Cranston confirmed Thursday that Murdough “would’ve had the ability” to open a small, vent-like window in his cell but didn’t.
Alma Murdough, 75, who said her son suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, wasn’t notified of her son’s death until nearly a month after it happened, when the AP contacted her.
On Thursday, Cranston told lawmakers the department’s notification process had been followed in Murdough’s case, but was being changed to more proactively find up-to-date contact information for relatives of incarcerated people.
“The reality of it is, if that procedure doesn’t result in notifying next of kin it has to be changed and it will be changed,” he said.
Murdough’s sister, Cheryl Warner, 44, said she wasn’t satisfied with the city’s punishment of the correction officer assigned to Murdough’s unit.
“Hopefully they get it right so it doesn’t happen to the next family,” she said of the proposed reforms to family notification.
Murdough was discharged as a private first class from the Marine Corps and served from 1975 to 1978 as a field artillery batteryman, the Marines Corps said. He struggled throughout his adult life with mental illness and alcoholism, according to his family.