By Melissa Brown / USA TODAY / Montgomery Advertiser
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – An Alabama man incarcerated in a prison mental health ward overheated and died in December after temperatures inside his cell topped 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tommy Lee Rutledge was found unresponsive in Donaldson prison on the night of Dec. 7, sitting near the window of his single-occupant cell with his head “facing out the window,” in an apparent attempt to breathe cool air, according to his autopsy.
The Jefferson County coroner’s office on Thursday confirmed Rutledge, 44, died of hyperthermia after his core body temperature reached 109 degrees. The coroner’s autopsy report was first obtained by Beth Shelburne, a freelance journalist.
It is unclear how temperatures inside the Donaldson prison cell skyrocketed past 100 degrees on a winter night with a low of 31 degrees, according to the National Weather Service data. The Alabama Department of Corrections declined to answer any specific questions, citing an “ongoing” investigation into the matter eight weeks after Rutledge’s death.