"HOW CAN YOU LET HIM COME HOME BUT NOT TELL US WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM?"
KAMLOOPS - It's been two months since an Ontario family found out their 20-year-old son died in his cell at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre, but they still have no information about how he died.
Dylan Levi Judd's embalmed remains bore no scars but the Y-shaped incision from the autopsy when it was delivered Nov. 18 to his adoptive mother, Danielle Judd-Sullivan and her husband in Douglas, ON. All they know is what the public knows through the media: Judd was found dead in his prison cell during a 7 a.m. morning check at the provincial prison on Nov. 10.
Judd-Sullivan, whose brother Chris is Dylan's biological father, adopted Dylan 18 years ago. The family wants answers about how he died. Each week, Judd-Sullivan has called officials in B.C., 3,000 kilometres away, but no one is giving her information, saying their investigation is ongoing and 'confidential,' she says.
“We have people here asking ‘what the hell happened?’ and we’re like ‘I don’t know. We don’t know,’” Judd-Sullivan says. “And then they look at us like we have three heads.”
They made the funeral open-casket because so many people didn't believe Dylan died.
Dylan was arrested in October on two charges, possession of stolen property and trespassing, in Sicamous – a stop on his backpacking journey to Williams Lake to visit family.
Judd-Sullivan says he was being held at the prison because he had no fixed address. He died eight days before his next court appearance.
His family says they haven't even been told when they may learn what happened.
“How can you let him come home, but not tell us what happened to him?” Judd-Sullivan says.
Judd-Sullivan says all the traditional steps of funeral planning were frustrating when she couldn't provide extended family and friends an answer they don’t have themselves. Some people have asked openly if Dylan killed himself.
“There’s no way Dylan committed suicide. I know my son. I’ve known him for 21 years and he wouldn’t commit suicide. He's a fighter. He loved life and he lived life,” Judd-Sullivan says.
She says nothing in her regular phone chats and exchanged letters suggests suicide. Dylan joked about how his cellmate wouldn’t keep quiet and spoke of his plans to get dental work while under government care.
“Right now I have small goals for myself and I’m working towards small things, like a biology credit, working out again, drawing, keeping to myself – but trust me, Mom – the last one to do is the hardest in here,” Dylan says in one of his letters. His last letter was delivered the same day Ontario Provincial Police notified family of his death.
The prison's warden, Evan Vike, returned only one call, just to tell Judd-Sullivan he has no information.
Vike declined an interview with InfoNews.ca.
When an inmate dies in custody, B.C. Corrections completes a Critical Incident Review which examines the facts of the incident, the history, possible causes and if necessary, the report makes recommendations to reduce the chance of a similar event from occurring. Corrections participates in a coroner's inquest, if requested by the coroner's office. Prison staff or inmates could give evidence if an inquest goes forward.
The B.C. Coroner’s Service cites confidentiality reasons for not releasing information on Judd’s death—including cause of death—to his guardians as investigators continue preparing for a potential inquest.
Spokesperson Barb McLintock says unless a death in prison is natural and expected, an inquest is likely. She wouldn't speak about this case in particular, but said notification to next-of-kin can be an issue because of legal guardianship.
“(The investigating coroner) will know who’s legally entitled to what information,” McLintock says. “If an inquest is called, we actually notify everybody including the world. That’s the point of an inquest... it’s a public document."
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