Family blames heroin in Fayette inmate’s jail hanging

A Fayette County man who died after he was found hanging in his jail cell had planned to return to school to pursue dreams of becoming a mechanic, but he couldn’t shake a heroin addiction that his mother and sister said fueled his downward spiral.

Cade William Stevens, 25, of 257 Lucky Lane, Dawson, was found at 10:06 a.m. Saturday hanging by bedsheets from cell bars at the Fayette County Prison. He was pronounced dead within the hour at Uniontown Hospital.

State police said Stevens apparently hanged himself between 9:40 a.m. and 10:06 a.m.

Two unidentified corrections officers were suspended yesterday with pay pending completion of an investigation, said Warden Larry Medlock.

The Fayette County Prison Board yesterday indicated it might take additional disciplinary action when it meets later this month. They can’t act until after Medlock and a human resources representative meet with the two guards. The meetings are required as per terms of the county’s contract with the guards’ union, United Mine Workers Local 9113.

Stevens’ mother, Shannon Ferencz, his sister, K. Leigh Krilosky, and his father, William Stevens, were among family members who attended the prison board meeting. District Attorney Nancy Vernon told them that videotapes of Stevens’ cell — and of an area where guards monitored live video feeds of the cell — have been preserved as part of the ongoing investigation.

Stevens was in jail on charges he struck a golfer in the face with an unloaded shotgun and robbed the man of $80 cash Sept. 10 at the Linden Hall Golf Course in Lower Tyrone. Police said Stevens told them he needed money to buy marijuana.

His mother and sister, both of Nashville, Tenn., yesterday said the incident occurred just five weeks after Stevens had reached out to them for help with drug withdrawal.

“He started withdrawal on his own, out on the street,” Krilosky said. “He sent my mom a text message, asking for help, and Mom had Grandma go get him.”

Ferencz and Krilosky credit Stevens’ grandparents, Gloria and Luke Knapp of Dawson, with nursing Stevens through withdrawal. Krilosky said her brother was “skin and bones” when Gloria Knapp took him in on her 140-acre farm, but had gained weight while in her care and was looking forward to going back to school.

Just prior to his arrest last week, Stevens landed a job with a paving company and planned to use his earnings to pay off tuition debts at a technical school so he could re-enroll and pursue his passion for mechanics. Ferencz said her son had a natural ability for fixing engines.

“When something didn’t run, he would take it apart in the garage, and it would be laying there, in pieces,” Ferencz said. “He would put it back together, and it would run. We always admired him for that.”

Those skills were never fully developed because Stevens turned to drugs in his late teens to cope with an earlier childhood disappointment his mother and sister declined to discuss. His troubles with the law — including an 18- to 36-month state prison sentence he drew in 2005 for arson and burglary convictions — were the result of his addiction, said his mother and sister.

“He knew what he was doing was wrong,” Ferencz said. “He said, ‘I want to do what’s right, but I can’t help myself because of the drug.'”

Krilosky said her brother quit heroin while in prison and remained drug-free for several months while on parole. He fell back into it when classmates at a college he was attending reintroduced him to heroin.

He quit again during his recent five-week stay with his grandparents, Ferencz said, but began using shortly after he started the paving job. In addition to battling his drug addiction, Ferencz said, her son was suffering from a painful medical condition that had gone untreated because he was turned down for medical assistance.

Ferencz and Krilosky said they spoke with Stevens by phone just before troopers arrested him last week for the golf-course robbery. They said Stevens feared another stint in jail.

“He was scared to death because of the threat of going back to jail, and also because of what he had done,” Ferencz said. “He wanted it to end. He wanted it to stop hurting, but he felt so helpless because he couldn’t get health care, he couldn’t get a job as a mechanic.”

Ferencz said she and her daughter take comfort in the belief that Stevens, in death, has finally found peace.

“As hurt as we are, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that Cade is with God,” Ferencz said. “We find comfort in knowing that he’s not in pain anymore.”

source: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/regional/fayette/s_643569.html?source=rss&feed=7

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