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Dead Killer’s Parents, Lawyers Say Prison Officials Are Lying

December 3, 1996

BOSTON (AP) _ The family of John C. Salvi III called Monday for an independent probe into the abortion clinic attacker’s death in prison, saying prison officials lied when they said they had no warnings he was suicidal.

They called for independent state and federal investigations into Salvi’s prison cell death, which state officials ruled an apparent suicide.

``We’re not looking for anything, any monetary gain,″ said Salvi’s father, John C. Salvi II. ``What we’re looking for is to see that this doesn’t happen to someone else, to some other family.″

Salvi, 24, was convicted of first-degree murder for the killings of two women who were working at two abortion clinics in Brookline. Five other people were wounded. He was sentenced to life without possibility of parole.

During his trial, Salvi’s lawyers acknowledged he committed the crimes, but said he was driven by insane urges. They said he saw himself as a warrior fighting an anti-Catholic conspiracy led by the Mafia, Freemasons and the Ku Klux Klan.

His family said he belonged in a mental hospital _ an alternative some jurors apparently weren’t willing to consider, since under Massachusetts law, he could eventually walk free if deemed sane by psychiatrists.

The elder Salvi told reporters Monday that he had called the prison to check on his son, ``And we were told it was none of our business. OK, but it was their business. And he obviously wasn’t all right, and it was obvious to everyone who met him and saw him.″

Guards found Salvi dead Friday in his cell at the state’s maximum-security prison in Walpole, his body under his bed with a plastic trash bag tied around his head. He was alone in the cell and left no note. The state medical examiner called the death a suicide.

Salvi’s trial lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., called for an independent investigation, noting that Salvi’s hands and feet were tied, and his mouth was gagged.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office will review the request for an investigation, spokeswoman Joy Fallon said.

But corrections spokesman Tony Carnevale said the department stands behind the suicide ruling, noting that Salvi’s method was ``not unheard of.″

As for the family’s claim that Salvi needed psychiatric help, prison officials have said he showed no such signs. They’ve also denied that his family had brought concerns about him to their attention.

``We’re here today to show that those statements by the Department of Correction are lies,″ Carney said Monday. ``They were notified. They were warned and they chose to ignore those warnings.″

Jamie Sultan, who represented Salvi on appeal, said Salvi was abusing himself and being beaten up by inmates ``without any kind of intervention″ by prison authorities.

At a news conference later Monday, Carnevale rejected Sultan’s statement as ``absolutely untrue″ and said Salvi had been involved in just two fights _ one of which he initiated.

He said prison officials did ``everything we could do by policy.″

Salvi’s mother, Ann Marie Salvi, said she contacted the prison superintendent’s office at least six times to express concern, and Carney said he was assured that Salvi’s condition was being closely monitored.

Carney also said he had given Deputy Superintendent Edward Foley the names of two psychiatrists who evaluated Salvi, and was told they would be contacted before the state decided whether to send Salvi to prison or a hospital.

The psychiatrists, Dr. David Bear and Dr. Prudence Baxter, both said Monday they were never called by state prison officials.

Foley, who now works at the state prison in Framingham, did not immediately return telephone messages Monday. Correction Commissioner Larry Dubois would not accept calls.

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