Medical Abuse/Neglect and Suicide





Inmate died from ruptured spleen - Death certificate cites blunt impact

by Milton J. Valencia

June 1, 2005


WORCESTER - Daniel McMullen had mentioned the boots in his letter home, soon after getting 13 stitches to his upper lip. The black boots were worn by Dennis Hadley when he allegedly kicked Mr. McMullen in their jail cell the morning of Feb. 3.

"Jesus kicked me in the mouth while I was in my bunk with his steel toe boots on, were not even suppose to be allowed to have them in here," Mr. McMullen, 42, formerly of Douglas, wrote to a friend, after he was taken to St. Vincent Hospital at Worcester Medical Center for treatment.

Mr. McMullen, an inmate at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction in West Boylston, returned to the hospital hours later, complaining of continuing chest pains. He died 20 days later, sparking a murder investigation that has made the pair of boots a central piece of evidence.

Officials say the investigation into the fight continues, but a death certificate released last month shows Mr. McMullen died of complications from a ruptured spleen due to blunt impact. It's the first official document that states he died from what it described as a scuffle in the jail. The manner of death is listed as homicide.

In letters he sent home, Mr. McMullen had written about the fights in the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction, where he was serving a six-month sentence for driving under the influence of alcohol, second offense. He told of how inmates would beat him and steal his things. In one case, an inmate urinated on his bed.

And on the morning of Feb. 3, Mr. McMullen wrote once again of getting beat up, this time by an inmate who called himself Jesus. He said he was kicked while lying in his bunk.

"Spent the morning at St. Vincents hospital getting stiches (sic) 13 upper lip split open," he wrote. "Anyway still have all my teeth. Nobody has been able to knock those out yet!"

It is believed to be the last letter he wrote before returning to the hospital, where he died after falling into a coma. Mr. McMullen also suffered from cirrhosis of the liver, which could have exacerbated his spleen injuries, the death certificate said. His sister authorized disconnection of his life support after doctors told her there was nothing more they could do.

Investigators from the jail confiscated Mr. Hadley's boots when they filed a charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a shod foot, in Clinton District Court. Jail officials have since said that the boots are not steel-toed, but have confirmed they are black construction-like boots. In court records, one sheriff detailed how Mr. Hadley allegedly kicked Mr. McMullen in the mouth "while wearing a pair of black boots." The fight began after Mr. McMullen accused his cellmate of stealing his playing cards.

The assault and battery case in Clinton District Court is pending, but Mr. McMullen's death opened a new investigation, with the possibility of more charges. Mr. Hadley, 49, formerly of Rhode Island, was in jail awaiting burglary charges, and is still being held on $200,000 cash bail on the new charge and during the new investigation.

Sheriff Guy W. Glodis called for a second-degree murder charge the day after Mr. McMullen died, saying it would be appropriate for what he called an unprovoked attack.

District Attorney John J. Conte, however, has said he will decide what charge, if any, is appropriate, saying he would conduct an in-depth probe that would look beyond the fight and the boots and include how jail and hospital staff responded. Mr. Conte did not return a call for comment to his office yesterday, but has said the investigation is complex and continuing.

Jeffrey Turco, deputy superintendent of the jail, said yesterday that his investigators are working closely with detectives assigned to Mr. Conte's office. "We look forward to the appropriate charges being filed when the district attorney deems the case is ready," he said.

Still, in the days after the fight, before Mr. McMullen died, the jail had moved forward with its own case, accusing Mr. Hadley of beating his cellmate over playing cards in what was considered another fight at the jail.

"The above named defendant (Hadley) did kick McMullen twice in the mouth with black boots on his feet," one jail deputy sheriff wrote in a court filing, dated five days after the fight. "This assault caused McMullen to go to (a hospital). ... McMullen returned to the hospital on 2-3-05 with internal bleeding, and is presently in the ICU."

Copyright 2005 Worcester Telegram & Gazette

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     Last Updated on Wednesday August 29, 2007.