Inmate on federal hold dies in booking area of Purgatory

Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 7, 2015 | File photo by Leanna Bergeron, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — An inmate with a history of medical conditions was found unresponsive Monday in the booking area of Purgatory Correctional Facility. The  man died after emergency treatment and resuscitation efforts failed.

Russell D. McGonigle, 67, of Hurricane, booking photo taken In Washington County, Utah, Aug. 21, 2019 | File photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

According to a statement released by Lt. Dave Crouse with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, medical personnel at Purgatory Correctional Facility responded to the booking area Monday morning after deputies found an unresponsive inmate, later identified as 67-year-old Russell Dwain McGonigle of St George. In spite of the medical treatment and resuscitation attempts administered to McGonigle, he was pronounced dead shortly after. 

Crouse said in the statement that the Washington County Attorney’s Office Critical Incident Task Force was activated to investigate the incident at the request of Sheriff Cory Pulsipher. 

Through the course of the investigation, the task force learned that, prior to his death, McGonigle was receiving medical care for numerous health conditions, supported by the fact that his primary care physician offered to sign the death certificate and explained that McGonigle had several pre-existing medical conditions.

Even with a physician present who was willing to sign the certificate, the body was sent to the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner for autopsy, which is protocol since he was in custody at the time of his death. 

At the time of his death, McGonigle was being held on a federal hold following a pretrial violation.

As part of the investigation into his death, a screening for the COVID-19 virus was conducted, and the results will be shared with authorities when they become available. 

However, authorities stressed that with ongoing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, there is little evidence to support a correlation between the virus and the inmate’s death investigation, as strict health screening processes were already in place prior to the death and there was only one symptom they reported that was consistent with the virus.

Additionally, McGonigle was being monitored for other health conditions for which he was being housed separately and had limited contact with other inmates, and he was also scheduled to see a physician on the day of his death. 

“We continue to monitor the health and condition of all incarcerated persons,” Crouse said in the statement. “Currently there are no individuals housed in PCF who have been diagnosed positive for COVID-19.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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