Michael Anthony Kerr spent the last five days of his life handcuffed in a North Carolina prison cell, unresponsive, off his mental health medicine, and lying in his feces and urine, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. An hour or two before the former Army sergeant died, officials at Alexander Correctional Institution put him into a wheelchair and drove him 2-1/2 hours east to a prison hospital in Raleigh. When Kerr, 53, arrived at Central Prison, his body was cold. He had died of dehydration. “They treated him like a dog,” said Brenda Liles, his sister.
The state Department of Public Safety has released almost no information to the public on Kerr's March 12 death. Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry said he called in the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the death. Perry said his staff conducted a thorough and transparent investigation and had disciplined 40 employees, including five who were fired and two who resigned. “We are very concerned about the case of Mr. Kerr,” said Vicki Smith of Disability Rights North Carolina, which provides advocacy and legal services for the disabled. Smith pointed out that Kerr had spent the last 35 days of his life in solitary confinement, which causes mental health to deteriorate. “There is a common trajectory of people who see the symptoms of their mental illness criminalized,” Smith said. “The root of this is untreated mental illness.”