Crime and Justice

Police investigate death of incarcerated man at Springfield prison

Southern State Correctional Facility
Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

Vermont State Police are investigating the death of a 73-year-old incarcerated man at the Springfield prison, though they do not consider it suspicious. 

Raymond Gadreault had a “medical history” and was housed alone in his cell at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, state police said in a press release Tuesday afternoon.

Raymond Gadreault. Vermont State Police photograph

“During routine rounds, Correctional Center staff noticed (Gadreault) was experiencing a medical issue and called for medical staff and rescue to respond,” police said in the release. "Resuscitative efforts were unsuccessful and (Gadreault) was pronounced deceased.” 

Gadreault served as a main source for a Seven Days story in December 2019 revealing that Kenneth Johnson, another incarcerated man who died at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport, had been denied medical care and was begging for help as he struggled to breathe.

"(Johnson) kept banging on the window for the nurse to do something about it — and they didn't," Gadreault told Seven Days.

Gadreault had spent the night of Dec. 6, 2019, in the prison infirmary with Johnson. 

Department of Corrections officials initially reported that it appeared that Johnson, who was 60 at the time, died of natural causes. But a week after Johnson’s death, Gadreault told Seven Days a different story — that Johnson’s pleas for medical care as he struggled to breathe went ignored. 

Investigations by several entities, including the Office of the Defender General and Disability Rights Vermont, determined that Johnson died of an undiagnosed tumor in his throat, and that prison medical personnel did not provide him the proper care. 

In fact, the defender general’s report stated, in addition to ignoring his begging for help on the night of his death, corrections staff threatened Johnson and told him to “knock it off.” 

His estate has since filed a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit. That suit accuses the corrections department and Centurion Health, the Virginia-based company contracted at that time to provided prison medical services in Vermont, of discrimination against Johnson, who was Black.

Now, Gadreault has died behind bars.

According to Tuesday's press release, state police were informed around 6:45 a.m. Tuesday of Gadreault’s “non-suspicious” death at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield.

Police said that “it appears” Gadreault died of “natural/medical cause.” Per standard procedure, his body was taken to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington for an autopsy.

The Springfield prison is currently on lockdown due to a Covid-19 outbreak, with the Department of Corrections reporting over the weekend that 45 incarcerated individuals there had tested positive for the virus. 

None of those who tested positive have reported severe symptoms, the corrections department said. 

In response to a question from VTDigger, Detective Sgt. Daniel Hall of the Vermont State Police said Gadreault’s death “did not appear to be Covid related.”

Rachel Feldman, a corrections department spokesperson, said late Tuesday afternoon that Gadreault was not one of the 45 incarcerated individuals at the prison who had recently tested positive for Covid-19.

Vermont Defender General Matthew Valerio, whose department includes the state’s Prisoners’ Rights Office, said Tuesday afternoon his office was reviewing Gadreault’s death. He declined further comment.

Gadreault had been lodged in prison on several charges, including aggravated domestic assault and abuse of a vulnerable person.

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