Pr. George's Prisoner Was Strangled, Autopsy Finds

State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey holds a news conference to announce findings in the autopsy of Ronnie L. White.
State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey holds a news conference to announce findings in the autopsy of Ronnie L. White. (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
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By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 19, 2008

An autopsy report says a 19-year-old inmate who died in June after being found unresponsive in his cell at the Prince George's County jail was strangled, possibly with a sheet, a towel or the "crux of the elbow."

The report, delivered yesterday to investigators, confirms an initial finding that the death of Ronnie L. White, less than two days after he was charged in the slaying of a county police officer, was a homicide.

White was assaulted and suffered a broken bone in his neck, says the report, reviewed by The Washington Post.

Even so, the report did not appear to settle a dispute that has raged since soon after White's death June 29, when County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) publicly cast suspicion on corrections officers, and the guards' union insisted that White's death was a suicide.

State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey appeared to regard the issue as unresolved yesterday, saying of the possibility of suicide, "we haven't ruled out -- or in -- anything from that perspective."

Ivey said the report, along with the findings of the police investigation, would be presented to a grand jury. He stopped short of saying he would seek an indictment.

A law enforcement source close to the investigation said authorities have information that "supports a suicide just as easily as a homicide." The source, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, declined to provide details.

Although jail officials have repeatedly said White was found slumped on the floor of his cell, an attorney for the Correctional Officers Association said for the first time yesterday that guards have told investigators they found him hanging after he apparently took his own life.

"They found him in a hanging, suspended position," the attorney, Clothilda Harvey, said last night. She said White's body was moved so he could receive medical attention.

Through a spokesman, Ivey declined to comment on Harvey's claim.

Bobby Henry, an attorney for White's family, called Harvey's claim "disingenuous at best."

"How do we go from no sign of foul play to someone finding him hanging, allegedly, in the cell -- that's a quantum leap," Henry said.

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