W.VA. PEN INMATES RIOT; 12 HOSTAGES BEING HELD
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Moore Audience Denied
By JIM COCHRAN
News-Register Staff Writer
January 2, 1986
Several relatives of those currently being held hostage by inmates at the West Virginia State Penitentiary at Moundsville are demanding to speak with Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr. in what was reported to be an impassioned plea for the safety of loved ones held inside the 100-year-old maximum-security prison.
Speaking to the news media briefly this morning, officials on the scene revealed that one of the hostages, Bill Henderson, a guard, had contacted his wife, Melanie, saying, “That if they (police officials) storm the place, someone will die.”
Meanwhile, there has been no official word on the demands the inmates are making for the release of the hostages other than a request to meet with Moore.
Negotiations continued late this morning with inmates at the West Virginia Penitentiary at Moundsville who Wednesday evening gained control of a portion of the state’s maximum-security facility.
Twelve persons – 11 corrections officers and one food service personnel – are being held by a group of inmates.
Two other hostages were released on Wednesday evening and the other this morning.
Although no formal demands have been made by the inmates, three employees – Paul Kirby, who heads the medical division, David Fromhart, a sections chief and Jeff Fromhart, a counselor – have met with the inmates several hours since the 5:30 pm takeover.
The inmates reportedly want to talk with Gov. Arch Moore Jr., who has said through his press secretary John Price that he will not talk with the inmates until the hostages have been released and the institution is returned back to correctional officials.
Moore was in Florida on a vacation at the time of the takeover.
One inmate has died. He was Kent Slie, serving a life term for murder from Putnam County. Slie was born in New Martinsville.
The two hostages released were Mike Coleman and Eddie Littell. Coleman reportedly had suffered chest pains and Littell had an injured arm. Neither was admitted to the hospital.
The hostages have been identified as: Patrick Glascock, Robert Hill, Robert Johnson, Mike Smith, John Wilson, Bill Wright, Robert Jones, Sanford Clegg, Leslie Howearth, Russell Lorentz, Joe Hill (all correctional officers). Bill Henderson, a food service employee, was also taken.
A new food service firm, Serv-A Mation, began operation Wednesday; the former food server had employed Henderson.
The inmates, who began their takeover during the supper hour Wednesday, have control of the southern section of the institution. They reportedly broke into the control unit, which houses the most hardened criminals.
In addition to the control unit, the men involved in the siege reside in the New Wall and P. & R. units. The men have access to the dining hall and the infirmary.
Wednesday evening state police from sections of the state were called to the institution, and appeared in riot gear, along with all off-duty correctional officers, Marshall County sheriff’s deputies and Moundsville City police.
The inmates seized the prison in a riot inside the dining hall while the evening meal was served.
“We don’t want this any more that you do,” one inmate yelled out a window. “You quit treating us like dogs, this wouldn’t happen.”
“We want better living conditions, better facilities and better medical conditions. They treat us just like dogs in here. This ain’t going to go on.”
State police said between 125 and 200 inmates out of a prison population of about 740 were involved.
Authorities had control of the prison guard towers. Spotlights played on the prison walls and there was the occasional sound of breaking glass. Smoke drifted above the prison walls at times.
More than six hours after the riot broke out, leaders of the rebellion began compiling a list of demands to be presented to the warden over walkie-talkies taken from the captive guards.
There were no reports of injuries and none of the prison’s 742 convicts had escaped, officials said, but 100 police in riot gear ringed the prison to prevent a breakout while a large crowd of townspeople milled about and stood on porches across the street.
Bill Wallace, one of the bystanders outside the prison, said he heard inmates shouting demands out windows for “better medical services, better living quarters, a pizza and some women.”
“I feel sorry for the poor people in there but if they didn’t do what they did, they wouldn’t be in there,” Wallace said.
Warden Jerry Hedrick told reporters at an impromptu news conference outside the prison that the takeover started in the dining hall but that the inmates appeared to have abandoned it for two cell blocks in the south end of the facility.
“At this particular time they are going to send a list of demands,” Hedrick said. “We will take a look at that but that is all we are doing now.”
“They pretty much have the run of the place, right now. Everything is peaceful. I don’t know how well organized it is.”
The warden said the prisoners had set no deadlines and had made no threats that he was aware of.
He said the inmates did not get any weapons from the guards but added, “of course they manufacture weapons in there.”
The prison had “about 30” guards on duty at the time of the takeover, Hedrick said.
Corrections Commissioner A. V. Dodrill rejected demands by riot leaders to meet with Moore.
“They said they would not talk to anyone until they talk to Gov. Moore, but I told the staff he would not be available.” Said William Whyte, executive aide to Dodrill.
When the inmates were denied an audience with Moore, some took off their clothes and set them on fire, officials said.
Officials said one of the hostages was an employee of Morrison Food Service, the firm under contract to prepare prison meals. The prison, under orders to make vast reforms, was the scene of a 1973 riot that left one inmate dead and two others wounded. Six years ago, 15 convicts staged a mass escape in which an off-duty sate trooper and one of the fugitives were killed.