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April 19, 2014

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Prison Deaths:

Carson City prisoner is fifth Nevada inmate to die since November

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Courtesy photo

Michael Johnson

A prison inmate serving time for second-degree murder has died at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center, the fifth inmate death in the Nevada Department of Corrections system since November.

Michael Johnson was in the medical center at the Carson City prison when he died Wednesday.

The state Department of Corrections said Thursday that Johnson, 55, had been in prison since 2008 and was serving a sentence of 10 years to life out of Churchill County.

The Clark County Coroner’s Office will conduct an autopsy.

Johnson is the fifth Nevada prison inmate to die since early November.

John Jennings, 59, also died Wednesday. He was at the High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs before he was admitted to Valley Hospital Medical Center to be treated for a medical condition. Prison officials said Jennings was serving time for sexual assault and lewdness with a child under age 14, for which he was convicted in Washoe County. He was sentenced to life behind bars with the possibility of parole.

Ward Bolinger, 64, was found dead Nov. 22 inside his cell at High Desert, where he was serving up to 20 years for attempting to sexually assault a victim under 14 and for attempted lewdness with a minor. He had been behind bars for the crimes since March 2012. The Clark County Coroner's Office performed an autopsy, but officials there said results are not available because a toxicology report is pending.

One day before, Robert Luttrell, 62, was found dead in his cell at Ely State Prison. Luttrell had been in prison since September 2006, serving a sentence of up to 30 years for robbery with a deadly weapons enhancement. His case originated in Washoe County. An autopsy conducted by the Clark County's Coroner's Office determined he died of heart and lung diseases.

On Nov. 8, Truman Walker, 67, was discovered in his cell at High Desert State Prison after he hanged himself, according to the Clark County Coroner’s Office. Walker, 67, had been at High Desert since August 2000. He was serving a sentence for open and gross lewdness.

Four inmates died in October at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City.

They are Richard Ferst, 52, who died Oct. 5 while he was serving a sentence for burglary, grand larceny and possession of stolen items; convicted cop killer Larry Peck, 62, who died Oct. 4; Joseph Oxford-McArthur, 31, who was serving a one- to three-year sentence for domestic battery and was found unconscious inside his cell Oct. 21 before dying four days later at an area hospital; and an unidentified inmate who died at a medical facility inside the prison Oct. 21 (his name is not yet public because prison officials have not notified relatives). Officials have ruled out foul play in all of the deaths except for Oxford-McArthur’s.

Nevada Department of Corrections officials have declined to discuss the circumstances of any of the October deaths or to say whether autopsies were requested. At least one inmate’s family says an autopsy was never requested, even though a new state law makes postmortem examinations mandatory for all inmates who die under the agency’s care.

Sun reporter Ana Ley contributed to this story.

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