‘Severely Decomposed’: Family Sues After Inmate Unexpectedly Died In Alabama Custody, Staff Lost His Heart

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Mariane Angela Contributor
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A family in Alabama is suing a correctional facility over the alleged disappearance of their relative’s heart following his death in custody, according to Law & Crime.

Brandon Clay Dotson, 43, was serving a 99-year burglary sentence when he passed away Nov. 16 in the Ventress Correctional Facility, according to the lawsuit. His death occurred on the same day he was being considered for parole, per the outlet. Dotson’s daughter and mother initiated a federal lawsuit, filed Thursday, against the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) which implicates various officials including ADOC Commissioner John Q. Hamm.

The family’s ordeal began when they were notified of Dotson’s death by Warden Karen Williams, per the outlet. Efforts to claim his body for a timely funeral before Thanksgiving were allegedly thwarted by bureaucratic delays, allegedly resulting in the body being severely decomposed, per the lawsuit. This development forced the family to opt for a closed casket service, per the outlet. (RELATED: ‘Somebody’s Gotta Help Me’: Video Shows California Inmate Who Died In Custody Pleading For Help)

The family’s distress was compounded when they hired pathologist Dr. Boris Datnow for a second autopsy, per the lawsuit. It was discovered that Dotson’s heart was reportedly missing from his body, per the outlet. The lawsuit alleges Dotson’s heart was removed without family consent, possibly for use in medical student exercises at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Heersink School of Medicine.

The lawsuit also highlights Dotson’s final days in prison, which reportedly consisted of unaddressed pleas for help against violence and drug access. The lawsuit accuses the prison’s leadership of gross disrespect and negligence. The claimants are demanding a jury trial, damages and an injunction against the responsible officials.

“The ADOC does not conduct its own autopsies and we do not comment on matters pending litigation,” ADOC told Law&Crime when asked about the matter.