3 inmates die in 8-day span at Georgia prisons

Georgia prison officials are investigating three recent inmate deaths, two of them suspected suicides. (Photo: Ben Gray, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

ATLANTA — Three inmates died in a span of just over a week at Georgia state prisons, one in an apparent homicide and two in suspected suicides, officials said.

The first was Calhoun State Prison inmate Raymond Nelson, 50, who was two years from completing a 10-year sentence for failing to register as a sex offender in Whitfield County.

Guards found Nelson unresponsive in his cell at 4:40 a.m. on Feb. 4 at the prison outside Albany, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

He was pronounced dead at 7:45 a.m. of a suspected suicide, prison officials said.

The second death happened Feb. 6.

Daquan Young, 27, was serving a life sentence from a 2011 Chatham County armed robbery conviction.

He was an inmate at Smith State Prison in Tattnall County, about 65 miles west of Savannah.


“Agents have reason to believe inmate Young died as a result of injuries sustained during an altercation involving another inmate,” prison officials said in a news release.

He died at 1:42 p.m. at Memorial Hospital in Savannah from an apparent stabbing, Tattnall County Coroner Bobby Brannen told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Brannen said he couldn’t give out further information because the death was under investigation.

It isn’t clear if anyone has been charged in the death. The Department of Corrections declined to comment.

The third death happened Tuesday.

Guards found David Payne unresponsive in his cell at 8:40 a.m. at Baldwin State Prison near Milledgeville, prison officials said.

Officials said workers attempted “life-saving measures,” but he was pronounced dead at 10:30 a.m. at the prison.

Officials said his death was also a suspected suicide.

Payne, in his mid-30s, was six years into an 18-year stint from a Stephens County aggravated assault conviction.

All three deaths are under investigation by the state Department of Corrections.

The number of Georgia prison deaths investigated as suicides has been on the rise in recent years.

Inmate advocates have attributed the uptick to a lack of mental health care and Georgia’s use of solitary confinement.

State corrections officials say they have been working to reduce suicides.

This article was written by Joshua Sharpe, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.