NEW ORLEANS — A 26-year old inmate was found unresponsive in his cell by deputies at one of the Orleans Parish Prison’s buildings shortly before 5:30 a.m. Thursday after he failed to respond for breakfast.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, inmate Ricky Russell was pronounced dead after the medical staff attempted to revive him. He was housed alone.
“Those efforts were unsuccessful,” Dr. Samuel Gore, OPSO medical director, said in a news release. “There were no signs of trauma at the scene.”
The Sheriff’s Office reported that the case is still under investigation but that a preliminary autopsy ruled out murder as a cause of death. Accident, self-injury and medication reaction are being considered, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Russell was arrested June 13 in connection with the bludgeoning and strangulation of a 74-year-old woman and was later indicted on a charge of second-degree murder.
On the morning of June 13, a levee board police officer found Russell soaking wet and wandering along Lakeshore Drive, NOPD Officer Garry Flot said. Flot said Russell immediately confessed to hitting Lorraine M. Langlois over the head with an air-conditioning window unit before putting a plastic bag over her head. Police said Russell then stole Langlois’ vehicle and drove it into Lake Pontchartrain.
Russell had previously been a resident at the Gentilly group home where Langlois worked as a caretaker and a cook, police said.
In 2008, Russell was arrested on a charge of aggravated battery, but the charges were later dropped by the District Attorney’s Office.
Russell last appeared in court Jan. 18, and had another hearing set for Feb. 22.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Russell received regular exams that included evaluations for any suicidal tendencies.
Russell was last seen in a clinic Feb. 1, and during the examination had no physical complaints and “denied suicidal ideation,” the Sheriff’s Office said in the release.
The NOPD has been notified, and a full autopsy, including a toxicology report, is pending, according to the Sheriff’s Office.