LAS VEGAS — The family of a Nevada prison inmate is seeking answers after he died last month at Northern Nevada Correctional Center.
Richard Ferst, 52, was one of four inmates who died in October at the prison in Carson City. Family members said they’ve received conflicting information about his death.
“We had, obviously, a bit of a falling out,” Ferst’s sister, Shelley Cremshaw, told the Las Vegas Sun in a Wednesday report. “But when I found out he died in his cell, my heart just dropped.”
Ferst was a career criminal who stole from relatives, fell in and out of jail and contracted hepatitis C while using a dirty needle to feed a decades-long drug addiction, his family said.
“I wasn’t proud of him by any means, but I loved him very much,” his mother, Sandy Morningstar, told the newspaper. “No matter what, he was still my son.”
Morningstar said a prison chaplain told her Ferst died at the prison’s infirmary two weeks after undergoing surgery for liver disease. But she said she was later told through the funeral home handling arrangements that Ferst died in his cell and did not appear to be under medical care when his body was found.
Other inmates who died included Larry Peck, 62, who died Oct. 4. He was convicted of killing a Reno police officer in 2001. Joseph Oxford-McArthur, 31, was serving a one- to three-year sentence for domestic battery and was found unconscious inside his cell Oct. 21 before dying four days later at a hospital. An unidentified inmate died at a medical facility in the prison Oct. 21. That man’s name has not been released because prison officials have not notified family.
Foul play has been ruled out in all the deaths expect Oxford-McArthur’s, the Sun reported.
Brian Connett, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Corrections, would not discuss the circumstances of any of the deaths. Jennifer Lopez, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said inmate medical records are confidential and that only basic information would be available to media via news releases.
Tod Story, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said the cluster of deaths and lack of information raise questions of inmate care.
“I think anytime there’s a series of deaths in one facility, it raises red flags that should concern everyone.”
Ferst’s family has obtained legal counsel to get answers and documents from NDOC.
“When four people die at a facility in a 30-day period, it warrants an investigation,” said attorney Parviz Heshmati. “That’s all it is right now.”