Crime and Justice

State investigating death of 34-year-old Newport prisoner

Northern State Correctional Facility
The Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport. Photo courtesy Vermont Department of Corrections

Updated at 12:17 p.m.

A 34-year-old man who had been incarcerated at Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport was pronounced dead Saturday at North Country Hospital. 

According to the Vermont State Police, Michael Cornell of Newport was “found in his cell” by Department of Corrections staff shortly before noon on Saturday. Prison employees and first responders administered emergency care before transporting him to North Country Hospital, which is also located in Newport. He was pronounced dead at the hospital just after 1 p.m.

Cornell had been housed in a quarantine unit at Northern State following an outside medical appointment, according to the Department of Corrections. 

The circumstances of Cornell’s death were not immediately clear. In separate statements, the department and the state police said it did not appear suspicious. 

Defender General Matthew Valerio, who oversees the Office of Prisoners’ Rights, said the information the department provided him “does not suggest foul play or self harm.” But, he said, “there is a fair amount of information to collect to determine what happened here.”

In accordance with state law, the state police and Office of Prisoners’ Rights plan to investigate Cornell’s death. The Department of Corrections also plans to conduct internal administrative and medical reviews, according to spokesperson Rachel Feldman. The state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is expected to perform an autopsy. 

According to the department's online database, Cornell was being held on charges of assault and robbery, burglary and domestic assault.

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Paul Heintz

About Paul

Paul Heintz is managing editor of VTDigger.org, where he oversees day-to-day operations of the newsroom. Heintz previously spent nine years at Burlington’s Seven Days newspaper, serving as a reporter, columnist and political editor. During that time, he was named journalist of the year by the New England Society of News Editors and won the New England Newspaper & Press Association’s Morley L. Piper First Amendment Award for his successful advocacy for Vermont’s first media shield law. Heintz previously worked in the U.S. House of Representatives and for the Brattleboro Reformer and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and thru-paddled the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

Email: [email protected]

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