The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 28, 2013

Marino vows to probe prison slaying

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

SUNBURY —  U.S. Rep. Tom Marino said he will investigate what happened Monday night at the U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan, where a corrections officer from Luzerne County was killed by an inmate.

The slaying of Eric Williams, 34, of Nanticoke, should never have happened, Marino said.

“These guys have no line of defense,” said Marino, R-10 of Cogan Station. “I have been pushing since last year for Congress to act on getting something together so our guards can at least be able to carry Mace. They are law enforcement, and all law enforcement individuals have the toughest jobs.”

Mace is a brand of tear gas that is packaged in an aerosol canister and stuns its victims.

The U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan, a high-security prison for men in Waymart, houses nearly 1,500 inmates.

Officials say Williams was killed by an inmate who used a homemade weapon and died from “a combination of blunt head and neck trauma and hemorrhage due to multiple stab wounds and cuts.”

Williams was pronounced dead at 11:30 p.m.

“This is clearly the darkest day in our institution’s short history, and we are in shock over this senseless loss of a colleague and friend,” Warden David Ebbert said in a statement.

A spokesman from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said the prison, which opened in 2005, remained in lockdown Wednesday and that the FBI is investigating the attack. The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on potential charges against the inmate, citing an ongoing investigation.

“Some of these guys are lifers and have nothing to lose,” said Marino, a former federal prosecutor.

Marino said he will visit the prison, speak to Warden Ebbert and was planning to visit with the Williams family.

The U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg houses roughly 1,400 inmates inside the maximum security prison and has about 500 outside the walls at the camp location.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and staff at Canaan,” said John Adami, spokesman for the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg. “We offer our support and any and all assistance that is needed.”

Williams was working alone in a unit housing about 130 inmates and was preparing to lock them into their cells for a nightly head-count when he was attacked, said Philip Glover, the northeast regional vice president for the guards union.

Williams would have been equipped with only a radio, keys and handcuffs, and that Marino said is a problem.

“I will be pushing in Congress to get this problem addressed,” Marino said. “I understand they can’t have guns but we need to at least address that these guys need some form of defense.”

n Email comments to fscarcella@dailyitem.com.