Death of NYC inmate in overheated cell probed

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In this March 12, 2014 photo, Alma Murdough and her daughter Cheryl Warner hold a photo of Murdough’s son, at her home in the Queens borough of New York. Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill, homeless former Marine arrested for sleeping in the roof landing of a New York City public housing project during one of the coldest recorded winters in city history, died last month in a Rikers Island jail cell that multiple city officials say was at least 100 degrees when his body was discovered. Murdough, 56, was found dead in his cell in a mental observation unit in the early hours of Feb. 15, after excessive heat, believed to be caused by an equipment malfunction, redirected it’s flow to his upper-level cell, the officials said. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

In this March 12, 2014 photo, Alma Murdough and her daughter Cheryl Warner hold a photo of Murdough’s son, at her home in the Queens borough of New York. Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill, homeless former Marine arrested for sleeping in the roof landing of a New York City public housing project during one of the coldest recorded winters in city history, died last month in a Rikers Island jail cell that multiple city officials say was at least 100 degrees when his body was discovered. Murdough, 56, was found dead in his cell in a mental observation unit in the early hours of Feb. 15, after excessive heat, believed to be caused by an equipment malfunction, redirected it’s flow to his upper-level cell, the officials said. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

In this March 12, 2014 photo, a picture of Jerome Murdough is held by his mother Alma Murdough left, and sister Cheryl Warner at Alma Murdough’s home in the Queens borough of New York. Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill, homeless former Marine arrested for sleeping in the roof landing of a New York City public housing project during one of the coldest recorded winters in city history, died last month in a Rikers Island jail cell that multiple city officials say was at least 100 degrees when his body was discovered. Murdough, 56, was found dead in his cell in a mental observation unit in the early hours of Feb. 15, after excessive heat, believed to be caused by an equipment malfunction, redirected it’s flow to his upper-level cell, the officials said. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

In this March 12, 2014 photo, Alma Murdough holds a photo of her son, Jerome, at her home in the Queens borough of New York. Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill, homeless former Marine arrested for sleeping in the roof landing of a New York City public housing project during one of the coldest recorded winters in city history, died last month in a Rikers Island jail cell that multiple city officials say was at least 100 degrees when his body was discovered. Murdough, 56, was found dead in his cell in a mental observation unit in the early hours of Feb. 15, after excessive heat, believed to be caused by an equipment malfunction, redirected it’s flow to his upper-level cell, the officials said. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

FILE – In this May 17, 2011 file photo, a section of the Rikers Island prison is seen in New York. Nearly a third of Rikers Island inmates who said their visible injuries came at the hands of a correction officer last year had suffered a blow to the head, a tactic that is supposed to be a guard’s last resort because it is potentially fatal, according to an internal report obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

In this March 12, 2014 photo, Alma Murdough and her daughter Cheryl Warner hold a photo of Murdough’s son, at her home in the Queens borough of New York. Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill, homeless former Marine arrested for sleeping in the roof landing of a New York City public housing project during one of the coldest recorded winters in city history, died last month in a Rikers Island jail cell that multiple city officials say was at least 100 degrees when his body was discovered. Murdough, 56, was found dead in his cell in a mental observation unit in the early hours of Feb. 15, after excessive heat, believed to be caused by an equipment malfunction, redirected it’s flow to his upper-level cell, the officials said. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

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NEW YORK (AP) — Investigators are probing how a mentally ill, homeless New York City veteran died last month in a jail cell that city officials told The Associated Press had overheated to at least 100 degrees, apparently because of malfunctioning equipment.

Acting Department of Correction Commissioner Mark Cranston said in a statement Wednesday that investigators were looking at the circumstances surrounding Jerome Murdough’s “unfortunate death.”

“While we cannot comment on the facts surrounding his death while the investigation is underway, preliminary information suggests there were unusually high temperatures in Mr. Murdough’s cell,” he said.

Four city officials told the AP that the 56-year-old former Marine was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication, which may have made him more vulnerable to heat. He also apparently did not open a small vent in his cell, as other inmates did, to let in cool air.

“He basically baked to death,” said one of the officials, who all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss specifics of the case.

The medical examiner’s office said an autopsy was inconclusive and that more tests were needed to determine Murdough’s exact cause of death. But the officials, all with detailed knowledge of the case, say initial indications from the autopsy and investigation point to extreme dehydration or heat stroke.

The department said it had addressed two contributing factors an outside consultant identified as causing the excess heat. It also said temperature checks immediately after the death revealed that several cells nearby

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