- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

NEW PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (AP) - An inmate died last year in his county prison cell of an accidental overdose, but neglect by officials was a contributing factor, a coroner’s jury has ruled.

The six-member Schuylkill County panel deliberated for about 45 minutes Monday before issuing its decision in the March 2013 death of 21-year-old Matthew Koncsler, of Shenandoah.

“There was neglect. We’re not pointing the finger at anyone in particular,” juror Gary Klemovage, of Frackville, told The (Pottsville) Republican-Herald (https://bit.ly/1fjWEQS).

Authorities said Koncsler was found dead in his cell less than two weeks after he began serving a drug sentence. An autopsy didn’t reveal a cause of death.

Two forensic pathologists, however, testified that Koncsler had used drugs, and one said it had entered his body within an hour of his death.

A cellmate testified that people he couldn’t identify had brought Koncsler cigarettes and stuffed them through the 1-inch gap under the cell door.

Juror Donald Klinger, of Lavelle, cited as an indication of neglect a surveillance tape appearing to show some sort of exchange in the medical room, though it was unclear what may have been exchanged.

“If cigarettes were allowed and bags could be passed, you could get away with anything,” Klinger said. “The cameras showed so much.”

District Attorney Christine Holman said she would use the findings to push for reforms at the prison.

“I think justice was served today. The six jurors hit the nail on the head,” Holman said. “There are some necessary changes that will have to be implemented.”

Coroner Dr. David Moylan III said possible changes include having doctors examine or X-ray incoming prisoners and providing cells without running water for suspected drug users.

The victim’s mother, Sherry Koncsler, of Shenandoah, said she was glad for some sort of resolution but drew little consolation from the decision. On the stand, she wept as she recalled her son as more than a drug addict.

“I still can’t believe my son is gone. I think of my son every single day,” she said.

It was the first county inquest in more than a decade. The coroner said there might be another jury this summer, but he wouldn’t say which case it was regarding.


Information from: Pottsville Republican and Herald, https://www.republicanherald.com

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