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Mother of mentally ill inmate who died in overheated New York cell plans $25M lawsuit

FILE - In this May 17, 2011, file photo, a man walks near the sign at the entrance to the Rikers Island jail in New York. Jerome Murdough, a 56-year-old mentally ill inmate at Rikers Island jail,

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FILE - In this May 17, 2011, file photo, a man walks near the sign at the entrance to the Rikers Island jail in New York. Jerome Murdough, a 56-year-old mentally ill inmate at Rikers Island jail, "baked" to death in his overheated cell during one of the coldest recorded winters in city history. The mother of a mentally ill, homeless veteran who was found dead in a one-hundred-degree New York City jail cell plans to file a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit. Family attorney Derek Sells says he’ll ask the city to preserve all communications and 911 recordings regarding Jerome Murdough’s death on Rikers Island at a press conference Friday May 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The mother of a mentally ill, homeless veteran who was found dead in a one-hundred-degree New York City jail cell that overheated due to an equipment malfunction in February plans to file a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city, her lawyer plans to announce.

Alma Murdough's attorney, Derek Sells, also will ask the city to preserve all communications and 911 recordings regarding former Marine Jerome Murdough's death on Rikers Island at a press conference on Friday, he said.

Sells filed a notice of claim, the first procedural step necessary for a civil suit against the city, with the comptroller's office on April 30 on behalf of the inmate's 75-year-old mother. In it, he writes that 56-year-old Murdough's death was caused by carelessness and negligence by Department of Correction employees.

Prosecutors in the Bronx are investigating the death.

"This case involves a tragic incident and we will review the lawsuit and respond accordingly," said Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city's law department.

Correction officials have declined to comment, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

The Associated Press first reported in March on suspicions about Murdough's cause of death. One official who spoke at the time on the condition of anonymity described him as having "basically baked to death."

Court documents filed last month in a separate federal court case citing a preliminary DOC investigation, show Murdough's internal body temperature, taken nearly four hours after he was discovered unresponsive in his cell in the early hours of Feb. 15, was 103 degrees. It said the cell was 101 degrees. Murdough was slumped at the edge of the foot of his bed with "a pool of vomit and blood on the floor."

A spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office says the exact cause and manner of Murdough's death have not yet been determined, pending further studies. But the court documents show the medical examiner investigator assigned to Murdough's case preliminarily found he likely died of hyperthermia.

Murdough was on psychotropic medication at the time of his death, which experts say can make people sensitive to heat. DOC officials have said he was left unattended for hours.

Murdough was arrested Feb. 7 on a misdemeanour trespassing charge for sleeping in an enclosed stairwell on the roof of a Harlem public housing building and was sent to Rikers Island after being unable to make $2,500 bail, according to court records.

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