You know what's so darn sad about Darla Lathrem's death? It didn't have to happen.  The DOC says the solution is "More Guards", but look at the big picture here: As long as the DOC refuses to weed out the unprofessional guards who push human beings past the limits of endurance, and as long as the DOC has no incentive/reward system in place, as long as the DOC administrators fail to enforce proper procedures, there will be unnecessary deaths and some of those deaths will be those of guards. 

Hey it's me writing Monday, June 23, 2003. Man, I am shocked! Aunt B sent me a picture of the female officer that got killed. I know her! She was on the recreation squad. In other words, she is one of the officers that used to pull us out for rec. every week. She was nice as hell ! She was a Christian. I had several conversations with her. Man, that's messed up ! I can't believe it! It's a damn shame!

And that Sgt. Spears is a slimy no good piece of Sh--. If anybody cared to look at the use of force records they'd find that he does 90% of the gassings on the shift he works. I can't believe his flaming audacity! To even speak at that sweet woman's funeral like he's a good c/o! I'm surprised God didn't strike him dead. For real! If you knew him you would understand. Man, I know God ain't gonna let this ride. He's got it coming slimy, lying, abusive, little piece of sh--. What a Charade they put on for the news cameras!

June 13, 2003 For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
(850) 488-0420

Correctional Officer Killed in the Line of Duty
at Charlotte Correctional Institution

The Florida Department of Corrections today mourns the death of a correctional officer killed during a failed escape attempt at Charlotte CI on Wednesday night.

While supervising an inmate work squad on a construction detail inside the prison, Officer Darla Lathrem was brutally attacked and murdered. She was 38 years old and is survived by her loving mother and father.

"Although words can never express our shock or alleviate the grief that comes from a tragedy like this, we sincerely extend our warmest, deepest, heartfelt sympathy to all of those who knew and loved Darla." said Secretary Crosby. Darla Lathrem was a bright, responsible, caring officer whose desire to help her co-workers was only overshadowed by her professionalism and character."

"There is exhaustive investigation ongoing into the events leading to this officers death," the Secretary said.

Law enforcement and correctional honor guards from around the state have requested permission to attend the funeral services for Officer Lathrem. "The Florida Department of Corrections Honor Guard will be in attendance and will welcome other units to stand with them," said Secretary Crosby. "Funeral arrangements have not been made, but will be announced as soon as possible."

The state flag at the prison and at department headquarters in Tallahassee flies at half-mast.

Local & State: Officer killed in attempted jail break remembered

Guard Dies

By GARRY OVERBEY, Charlotte Sun-Herald

Authorities are investigating the death of a female corrections officer killed during an escape attempt at Charlotte Correctional Institution on Wednesday night.

Three inmates are being held as suspects, but none have been charged, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesman.

Charlotte County Correctional Institute Lt. Steven Otwell stands guard at the facility as the flag flies at half staff in remembrance of correctional officer Darla Lathrem. Lathrem, 38, died Wednesday night as she supervised five inmates who were helping to renovate a dormitory. Three of the prisoners tried to escape and two others were injured. AP photo by Bert Cass/Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Darla Lathrem, 38, died at the prison, located on Oil Well Road in southern Charlotte County. She is the first corrections officer fatality at CCI and is the first female prison guard killed in Florida.

Lathrem, who had worked at the prison since last June, was supervising five inmates on a construction detail inside the facility when she was assaulted. Two of the inmates on the detail were injured, and the other three then tried to escape around 10 p.m., according to Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections.

Two of the suspects were captured in a new dormitory they were helping prepare for final inspection Thursday. The third, Dwight Eaglin, 27, was caught after using a "makeshift ladder" to scale the 12-foot-high, razor-topped inner perimeter fence, according to FDLE spokesman Larry Long.

He was caught in the 30-foot span between the inner and outer razor wire fences after guards saw him.

Eaglin was serving a life sentence for fatally stabbing a man in 1998 outside a Pinellas County topless bar. John Frederick Nichols had interrupted Eaglin as he tried to remove a stereo from a stolen car, and Eaglin stabbed him to death. Eaglin had been incarcerated at CCI since Jan. 23, 2001.

At the time of his arrest, he was Florida's welter weight boxing champion, nicknamed "The Fighting Irishman."

Charlotte Correctional Institute guard Darla Lathrem, 38, was killed Wednesday night, June 11, 2003, during an apparent escape attempt by inmates at the Punta Gorda facility. AP photo/Sarasota Herald-Tribune, courtesy FDLE

Officials aren't yet releasing the names of the other two suspects or the two inmates who were injured.

"Of the four other inmates, one or more of them may have tried to help the officer," Ivey said. "They could be subject to reprisal from other inmates if their names got out."

The two injured inmates were taken to Lee Memorial Hospital. Their injuries were not immediately known.

The workers had access to numerous tools, including hammers and screwdrivers. Lathrem was reportedly killed with a sledge hammer, but investigators haven't confirmed if any weapons were used in the attack.

Lathrem was armed with pepper spray. Guards who have close contact with prisoners can't carry guns because inmates could get close enough to take them away, Ivey said.

Like most of the population at CCI, Eaglin is classified as "close custody," which is the second-highest security designation, below death row inmates, according to Ivey.

Funeral arrangements for Lathrem will be announced as soon as the Charlotte County Medical Examiner's Office releases her body.

Lathrem, the daughter of a retired Baptist minister, lived in Fort Myers with her mother and father and was active in her church. She was unmarried and had no children.

"Her parents are still alive and they are grieving very hard," said Lathrem's brother-in-law, who wouldn't give his name. He declined further comment but asked that donations be made to the American Cancer Society in lieu of flowers.

Neighbor Chris Baucom remembered Lathrem as a happy young woman who liked to exercise by walking through the neighborhood wearing head phones.

"She was part of the community and part of my life and she's gone," said Baucom, who has lived in the same neighborhood with Lathrem's parents for 25 years. "She was a beautiful person inside and out."

Lathrem loved her job and her cats, Baucom said.

"Her dad said the cats knew something was wrong," Baucom added. "They kept pacing."

Flags at the prison and all Charlotte law enforcement facilities were lowered to half-staff Thursday. The prison stayed under lockdown throughout the day Thursday.

"She was an excellent officer," Lt. R.J. Poccia said of Lathrem. "You never had to ask her twice to do anything. She was just a good decent human being.

"This is a very, very difficult situation for all of us and for the community," Poccia said. "We don't just work here, we live in this community; we have family and friends in this community; and, hopefully, everybody will understand the severity of what can happen at a place where they send inmates. This is a dangerous environment."

Dwight Eaglin was charged Thursday morning June 12 in the killing of Charlotte Correctional Institute guard Darla Lathrem. Eaglin is serving a life sentence for first degree murder. AP photo/Sarasota Herald-Tribune, courtesy FDLE

The Charlotte Correctional Institution houses more than 1,000 prisoners, and has more than 400 people on staff. Ivey said there were 31 guards on duty at the time of the attack.

"It appears the prison was adequately staffed," Ivey said.

Ivey also said it isn't uncommon to see one guard supervising as many as 10 inmates on a work detail.

The last attack on a CCI corrections officer happened in April, when Timothy Moore was stabbed in the abdomen by an inmate. He was not seriously injured.

Ivey at first told the press the DOC would investigate the prison's policies and procedures, but he said later his remark was premature.

"We are assisting the FDLE in their investigation," he said. "If anything raises a concern, we will certainly" investigate.

Long wouldn't give a timetable on the FDLE's investigation.

"We're going to take all the time we need to make sure we have a case to take to the State Attorney's Office," he said.

Lathrem's death comes two weeks after four guards were beaten, one seriously, by inmates at Washington Correctional Institution in north Florida.

The number of assaults by inmates on correctional officers has remained relatively steady for the past three years, said Debbie Buchanan, a DOC spokeswoman. In 2000, there were 676 assaults, 575 in 2001 and 685 in 2002.

Through May 31 of this year, 272 assaults have been reported.

The last Florida corrections officer killed was Fred S. Griffin, who was killed in an ambush in 1987 by two men trying to free an inmate from a police van in West Palm Beach.

The Associated Press and the Naples Daily News contributed to this report.

Female guard killed in Charlotte prison escape attempt

Will give more info when found.

I wonder what promises might have been made to inmates, or what threats to them, to get them to try something that they must have known would fail?  A "MAKE-SHIFT LADDER"???? HIDE IN THE DORM THERE?  Why not go back to the infirmary or the cell, anywhere; Say she sent me back, didn't feel well enough to work, any number of excuses!  I'm sure they are smart enough to do better at this than I can,  but hide in that place, to be inspected? 
Did they see something that no one would believe if they told it, & then they made these crazy decisions because they knew they would be blamed & they were stuck in it neck deep & no way out?  What or who is going to get to "the bottom" of it ?  There is more here than meets the ear, `cuz it just don't add up is exactly right! To many things don't fit, many pieces to the puzzle missing yet.
You've raised some valid  questions.  Hope I'm wrong, but we may never know if this investigation isn't done properly.

Send this to the reporter --- they like to investigate stuff like this-- they don't know what we know and don't know possibly the questions to ask---- I sent him some last night -- about what was a crew doing working that late???   bea
Local & State: Officer killed in attempted jail break remembered

Riverdale High grad Lathrem called team player


Darla K. Lathrem, the shy daughter of a Baptist minister, chose to work in a world where violence always is just a muscle twitch away.

Lathrem, 38, who became a state correctional officer, was killed in the line of duty Wednesday night during an attempted prison break at the Charlotte County Correctional Institution. She was hired for the job, which pays trainee officers about $25,800 a year, in June 2002. She received training at the Southwest Florida Criminal Justice Academy from July to October.

Family members, including her parents, David and Mary Lathrem of Fort Myers Shores, declined to be interviewed Thursday. She also is survived by three sisters, their husbands and nieces and nephews.

"She was a very quiet person that didn't really want to be recognized,"  said her instructor, correctional coordinator Rick Widner .

"She was very good academically."

She gained confidence as she progressed and finished in the top quarter of her class, he said.

"She became a team player who wanted to help others," Widner said. "She was very anxious to start her career."

Losing a student is hard to handle and difficult to understand, Widner said.

"You develop a very close relationship with students. It's almost a paternal relationship. You see them go through a transformation," he said.

"It takes a special breed of person to be a correctional officer."

She was an excellent officer who understood directions the first time, said Department of Corrections Lt. R.J. Poccia, who worked with her in Charlotte County.

“It’s a very stressful job. You have no defense for yourself," said Joe Ursitti, who attended Riverdale High School with Lathrem and who at one time was a correctional officer at the Hendry County Correctional Institution.

Ursitti, who is on the committee planning their classes 20th reunion for the Labor Day weekend, said he recognized her name but didn't remember anything about her as a classmate. He planned to pull out a yearbook and look.

"When I see her face, it will shock me back," he said.

About the time she graduated from Riverdale in 1983, her father became pastor of First Baptist Church of St. James City. Church members Mickey Westcott and Charles Gilbert remembered her from those days.

"When she finished school she would go out and mow lawns for other people. She earned money that way,"  said Westcott. She described Lathrem as very quiet and friendly.

Gilbert said he thought she might go into missionary work, given the example her parents set.

"She was very quiet and demure. I never expected her to get into police work,"  Gilbert said.

The News-Press staff writer Tanya Somaroo contributed to this report.




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