Once again, the Florida Department of Corrections is accused of murdering an inmate under its care. This time, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is being asked to investigate the death of an inmate caused by “blunt force trauma to her abdomen” in the Lowell prison in Ocala, Florida. The inmate, Latandra Ellington, was incarcerated for grand theft. Before she was killed, she wrote to her family to inform them that she may not make it out alive because of “Sergeant Q”, who she said was threatening her and beating her. According to the Miami Herald:
Lowell, based in Ocala, was built in 1956, and houses young, elderly and infirm female inmates, from minor drug offenders to the six women currently on Florida’s Death Row.
Department of Corrections records show only one male sergeant at the prison whose name begins with a Q.
The DOC did not respond to questions about whether the sergeant had any links to the case, his current status — or whether anyone had been suspended in connection with Ellington’s death. It issued a statement saying “this is an ongoing investigation, and any additional details, including reports from the medical examiner, are confidential at this time.”
The Herald reached out to the sergeant, but a message left with a woman who answered his phone number was not returned Monday.
Ellington is among nearly 200 ongoing state prison death investigations that have been turned over to the FDLE.
Sgt. Q, she told her aunt, always turned his badge around so that she couldn’t see his name. In one of the letters, she said he took her into a room and repeatedly told her he was going to “beat the sh– out” of her. She also provided the names of other corrections officers who had witnessed violence and mentioned the beating of a “white girl” at the prison recently.
“Auntie, no one knows how to spell or say this man’s name,” Ellington wrote about the guard in her last letter to her aunt. “But he goes by Sgt. Q and he works the B Shift a.m. So please call up here.”
After getting the letter, which Ellington sent under an assumed name, Jennings called the prison on Sept. 30, frantic about her niece’s well-being. She said she spoke to a Major Patterson. She said he assured her he would “look after” her niece. She could hear Ellington in the background, so she felt relieved when he said she was safe in confinement.
But less than 24 hours later, the family was told she was dead.
They were given no cause of death and they haven’t been contacted since — no questions to indicate the department was investigating her claims, no attempt to reassure them, Parks said.
“This state owes them more than that,” he said. “They get one call from a chaplain saying she’s dead, and nothing.”
Jennings, the aunt, said the sergeant had been terrorizing her, but she was too afraid to tell her why.
“She just said she couldn’t fight them. He told her ‘Do not underestimate my power. ”