Inmate Killed in State Prison System; Second Such Case in Four Weeks

By Ray Stern

State prison officials see no connection between the homicide of inmate Duffy Kilrain last month and yesterday's killing of inmate Earl Ray Lappe (pictured) in a different prison facility.

Still, it's the second state prison inmate to be killed in four weeks, so naturally questions are going to come up as to what's going on over there. As New Times noted in a previous blog entry about Kilrain, a prison slaying two years ago revealed prison staff problems that led to the discipline of 14 employees.

Whether the new slayings involve similar breakdowns in security or procedures at the prisons will be answered in investigative reports still being prepared, says Department of Corrections spokesman Nolberto Machiche.

Lappe , 32, had been serving a life sentence at the Lewis prison in Buckeye since being convicted in 2001 for first-degree murder. He was also convicted in 2003 for assaulting another inmate.

The Internet doesn't seem to carry any info about Lappe's 2001 murder case, and a call to Yavapai prosecutors about his case has not yet been returned.

Sometime yesterday afternoon, at least one suspect killed Lappe "in his housing area," which could mean in Lappe's cell or just outside of it, Machiche tells New Times. An autopsy has been ordered and investigators are trying to piece together what happened. If any suspects are identified, the corrections department will forward the case to the Maricopa County Attorney's office for possible prosecution, he says.

Corrections officials are "definitely" looking for "connections and commonalities" between the Lappe and Kilrain killings, but at this point there appear to be none, Machiche says.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern