Justice is a slow process for Ivanhoe’s Brenda Liles. While she’s now seeing some action being taken following her brother’s death as he was being transported from a Taylorsville Prison to Central in Raleigh, it’s still not enough. Really, she asserted this week, it’s just too little, too late.
“It’s something,” Liles said this week, “but it ain’t enough to make me rest. A whole lot more needs to happen.”
What has happened so far, according to The Associated Press, is the firing of seven employees at the Alexander Correctional Institution where Lile’s brother, Michael Anthony Kerr, was incarcerated. He spent his last few days there in solitary confinement, alone and in mental anguish, his sister said, with no one paying much, if any, attention to his needs.
According to the AP, a captain and four nurses at Alexander have been dismissed as part of the ongoing investigation into Kerr’s death. A nurse and a staff psychologist resigned earlier in the month.
“I feel good that something is being done, that some have been fired,” Liles stressed this week. “But I can’t tell you I’m satisfied. If those people had some part in neglecting Michael, they can’t just fire them and that be it, not as far as I’m concerned.
“If they weren’t doing what they should have been doing to help my brother, then more needs to be done.”
She stopped short of calling for criminal charges, but Liles was adamant that given her own continual pleadings that help be given to her brother, something beyond dismissal should happen.
“They didn’t even contact me about what was going on, that’s how much they are concerned about what I think,” Liles said, anger creeping into her voice. “I really think they should keep me informed of what’s going on. I started this ball rolling because I knew something was wrong. They just didn’t listen to me.”
The 53-year-old Kerr was found unresponsive in the back of a van after being driven from Alexander to Raleigh’s Central Prison. An autopsy is still pending, but initial reports on his death indicated there were no visible signs of injuries and no indication of foul play.
Kerr’s sister, in an interview with The Sampson Independent in early April, said she had repeatedly called prison officials about her brother’s condition in early March, seeking help that she believed never came.
“They’ve all got blood on their hands as far as I’m concerned,” Liles said again this week. “I tried to get my brother help; they didn’t do what they said they were going to do, and he’s dead because of it.”
Liles, who still lives in Ivanhoe where she and her brothers, including Kerr, had been raised, buried her younger sibling on March 21.
As sorrowful as she remains about his death, it’s the anger that continues to swell inside her, an anger she directs at the prison officials she tried to warn about Kerr’s bouts with depression.
Her brother, she said, had not gotten over the death of his two sons, both murdered a few years back. “He was in a depressed state a lot of the time. Then my son, his nephew, was killed last year. They were close, and that just devastated him more,” she said.
The deaths, she stressed, weighed heavily on his mind, something she recognized in the letters she and her sibling exchanged during his incarceration.
It was thoughts of his mental state that was the catalyst for Liles’ phone calls to prison officials back in early March.
“I pleaded and I begged to get Michael some help. Really, I begged and pleaded with them all. I kept telling them he was being medically neglected.”
Kerr’s counselor, Liles said, assured her something would be done, that they’d transfer her brother back to Central, where he’d gone before because of his mental state. “She said she’d get the paperwork done and she’d get him some help.”
It was eight days later that Kerr left Alexander headed for Central Prison. “They didn’t get him the help they promised; they took to long,” Liles said.
And while an SBI investigation is ongoing and some prison employees have been fired, Liles is far from thinking this is over.
“I don’t want to let this story die down; if I do, that will be the end of it. This doesn’t just end because some people got fired, not at all. For me, it’s just the beginning. Yes Michael is dead and I can’t bring him back, but I can keep on fighting for his justice. I will, too.”