Inmate, potential witness in prison riot trial, found dead

WILMINGTON — Luis Cabrera, a 49-year-old inmate housed at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington, was pronounced dead yesterday morning, said the Department of Correction.

According to court documents, Cabrera was both a potential witness in the ongoing criminal trial stemming from the deadly riot at Vaughn prison near Smyrna last year and one of the over 100 plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit filed against the state last week alleging mistreatment by prison staff.

The DOC claims foul play is not suspected.

The DOC noted that Cabrera was pronounced dead at 4:54 a.m. on Thursday. He was serving three life sentences plus an additional 44 years for three counts of first degree murder, three counts of conspiracy, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and first degree burglary.

Cabrera’s body was turned over to the State Division of Forensic Science, as is standard procedure, officials said.

Nearing the end of its third week, the ongoing criminal trial being held in Wilmington has featured over a dozen inmate eyewitnesses who claim to have seen the riot unfold last year in C Building at Vaughn, the state’s largest maximum security prison. The trial will decide the fate of the first group of 18 inmates charged for their participation in the riot. The inmates have been broken into five groups. The first group includes Dwayne Staats, Jarreau Ayers and Deric Forney who are standing trial on charges of murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and rioting.

Dover attorney Stephen Hampton last week filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of more than 100 inmates — Cabrera being one — housed in C Building.

The 80-page complaint outlines “inhumane conditions” at Vaughn and states that for many years prior to the riot that left Correctional Officer Lt. Steven Floyd dead, prison personnel “illegally abused, mistreated and tortured inmates with virtually nothing being done by their JTVCC (James T. Vaughn Correctional Center) or DOC supervisors, to stop them.”

Delaware Gov. John Carney and ex-DOC Commissioner Robert Coupe are among the defendants named in the suit, along with current commissioner Perry Phelps, several wardens and a host of other DOC staff from a major to correctional officers.

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