- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina prison officials have asked the State Bureau of Investigation to review the death of an inmate with mental illness found unresponsive in the back of a van.

State Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Pam Walker said Michael Anthony Kerr died March 12 after being taken from Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville to Central Prison in Raleigh.

Records indicate that the 53-year-old inmate from Sampson County was held in solitary confinement prior to his death. An autopsy is pending.

Walker declined to comment on whether Kerr had been involved in any kind of altercation with prison staff before being placed in the van, but said one employee had resigned while under investigation.

A police report on Kerr’s death does not list any visible injuries and Walker said there was no indication of “foul play.”

In a written statement issued by his department, Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry expressed his condolences to Kerr’s family Tuesday. He said administrators in the prison system had raised concerns about the circumstances under which Kerr died.

Perry said he wants a “swift, aggressive and thorough” investigation and that disciplinary action will be taken against prison staff if needed.

“Adherence to established policies and procedures is critical to operating safe, humane and secure prisons, and I will not tolerate those procedures being violated,” Perry said.

Records show Kerr, whose criminal record includes several convictions for larceny, was sentenced in 2011 to serve 31 years as a habitual felon after being charged with illegally possessing and discharging a firearm.

According to an obituary, Kerr is survived by his wife. The family could not immediately be reached for comment.


Follow Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker at Twitter.com/mbieseck

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