FINDLEY TOWNSHIP – An inmate at State Correctional Institution Mercer is accused of strangling his cellmate to death Monday night with torn bed sheets.
Darl James Heverly, 35, an inmate at the prison, was arraigned Tuesday before District Judge Daniel W. Davis on homicide charges.
State police were called to the prison at 8:50 p.m. in response to a report that an inmate, Jason Albert Kelly, 35, was found dead in his cell.
A corrections officer was conducting rounds in the restricted housing unit when he looked into a cell shared by Kelly and Heverly, and he saw Kelly on the floor, bound, gagged and unconscious, according to the police criminal complaint.
Heverly was secured in another cell and Kelly was taken to Grove City Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 9:59 p.m. by Mercer County Coroner John A. Libonati. The manner of death was ruled homicide by asphyxiation.
State police interviewed Heverly, who admitted to strangling Kelly using strips of torn bed sheets. Heverly said Kelly was part of a prison gang that he believed was planning to harm or kill him over a disagreement, police said.
Heverly said Kelly threatened him repeatedly throughout the day Monday, so Heverly told police he decided to act first. He said he jumped on Kelly’s back and choked him with a strip of torn bed sheets from the cell, tying pieces of bed sheet around Kelly’s neck and mouth. Police said Heverly tied Kelly’s hands behind his back after he fell unconscious.
Heverly told police that he covered Kelly with a sheet after he stopped moving and breathing before notifying a corrections officer about a half hour later, police said.
Libonati said his office is overseeing an autopsy today to gather additional forensic evidence.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections stated that the SCI Mercer staff notified Kelly’s next of kin.
Kelly was serving a five- to 10-year sentence for a predominate offense of robbery on an Allegheny County conviction. He had been at SCI Mercer since March.
Heverly was convicted in 2006 of burglary, robbery and kidnapping in Snyder County Common Pleas Court, and is serving a 29- to 58-year sentence, according to state online court documents.
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