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Estelle Richardson, 34
Nashville, Tennessee
July 05, 2004

Agencies: Davidson County Maximum Correctional Center (MCC) Tennessee

Last updated: 6 months ago

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On July 5, 2004, Estelle Richardson a 34-year-old mother, died at the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility, where she was an inmate. Her death was ruled a homicide.

Four officers of the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the Metro jail, were indicted for Estelle's murder. However, pressure from the CCA, a multi-million international company, led state and federal authorities to cave in and drop the charges, claiming the time that Estelle received her injuries could not be substantiated.

Since the charges were dropped, there has been an official cover-up. Estelle's killers have been allowed to get away with murder for four years. We must unite to stop the cover-up and raise our voices to demand justice for Estelle Richardson!

On July 5, 2004, Estelle Richardson, 34, a female prisoner at the CCA-run Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility in Nashville, was found unresponsive in a segregation cell. She was declared dead that same day at a local hospital. An autopsy conducted by the State Medical Examiner's office found she had a fractured skull, four broken ribs and a damaged liver. Her death was ruled a homicide.

The day before she died, Estelle had been forcibly removed from her cell by four CCA officers.

When investigators arrived at the CCA-Metro facility they asked to see the videotape of Estelle's cell extraction the day before her death. According to the Attorney General's office, the investigators were told by CCA staff that the video camera had "malfunctioned," and no video was available. Yet when an investigator asked to see the camera and inspected it, it appeared to be in working order.

In Sept. 2005, four CCA officers – Jeremy N. Neese, Keith A. Hendricks, Joshua D. Schockman and William Wood – were indicted on charges of reckless homicide and aggravated assault in connection with Estelle's death. The charges were eventually dismissed in May 2007, largely because the timing of Estelle's fatal injury could not be accurately determined. A fifth CCA officer, Shirley M. Foster, who had allegedly injured Estelle three days prior to her death, was not charged.

The question remains: Who killed Estelle Richardson, and what happened to the videotape, if any existed, of her forcible cell extraction the day before she died? Her murder remains unsolved.

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April 2006 Settled for a confidential sum

May 2006 Four guards indicted

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Story by Shane Bauer

Shane Bauer is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. He has previously reported on solitary confinement, police militarization, and the Middle East. He is the co-author, with Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal, of A Sliver of Light, an account of his two years as a prisoner in Iran.

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