Investigation continues into death of Valdosta State Prison inmate

Investigation continues into death of Valdosta State Prison inmate

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - More details have been released on the death of an inmate inside the Valdosta State Prison.

Lowndes County Coroner Austin Fiveash said that based on his initial investigation, it appears the inmate’s cause of death was penetration trauma. He said it’s too soon to know what caused it or what type of weapon was used. He said that they are waiting for the autopsy report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) crime lab.

“These guys have nothing but time and if their intent to make a weapon, they’ll figure it out. They can make a weapon with enough time and energy. They can make a weapon out of just about anything,” said Fiveash.

The coroner’s office was called to the prison Monday night around 11:45.

Orvonta Tillman, the inmate, was pronounced dead at 1 a.m. on Tuesday, according to a report from the Georgia Department of Corrections (DOC).

The report said he died as a result of injuries sustained during a fight with another inmate.

DOC declined to make a statement because of the ongoing investigation.

Coroner Fiveash said inmates can make weapons out of just about anything in the prison, including pieces of metal from different parts of the facility, pieces of wood, pencils, pens and even spoons from dinner.

“One of the things we see is that the way these security searches are done may not be consistent. We would recommend that these sort of shakedowns are conducted in a consistent and professional manner in order to reduce the prevalence of things like weapons or cell phones within prisons,” said Sara Totonchi, the executive director of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Southern Center for Human Rights is a nonprofit law firm based in Atlanta that has worked for over 40 years for equality and justice for people impacted by the criminal legal systems. They keep tabs on what’s happening in prisons and jails across Georgia.

Totonchi said that every week, the organization hears stories from people who are incarnated and their family members.

They urge the Georgia Department of Corrections to take the steps necessary to reduce the violence and reduce the security lapses within its prisons.

“One thing that we would recommend is bringing on an independent consultant who can take a look at what the systems are within Georgia prisons and find out where the gaps are, and make recommendations for what the Department of Corrections can do immediately to protect the lives of people that they are charged to hold,” said Totonchi.

This is the second death inside the Valdosta State Prison this year and both died from the same cause, according to information from DOC. Tillman’s death was also the ninth homicide so far in Georgia prisons for 2020.

“Regardless that these people are inmates, are incarcerated, they are still loved by their families, they are still people. They may have done bad things and they’re serving their times for that, but they are still loved by their families and friends. And obviously, his family was heartbroken to learn that he has passed away, very emotional and upset but they are very cooperative at this point and are very patient in allowing us to finish our investigation and give them as much factual information as we can,” said Fiveash.

Valdosta State Prison (Source: WALB)
Valdosta State Prison (Source: WALB)

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