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Inmate, guard charged in stabbing death in prison cell

July 7, 2021 GMT

DALLAS, Pa. (AP) — A prison inmate has been charged with criminal homicide and a prison guard with involuntary manslaughter in the stabbing death of another inmate at a northeastern Pennsylvania prison earlier this year.

Inmate Nafese Pierce, 25, is charged with criminal homicide, possession of a weapon by an inmate and evidence-tampering in the death of 24-year-old fellow inmate Edgar Gearhart, who was stabbed Jan. 28 in his cell at the State Correctional Institution-Dallas.

Corrections officer Osmel Martinez, 25, of Kingston is charged with involuntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice and unknown falsification to authorities, accused of failing to stop the crime and then ignoring concerns from other inmates about the victim’s injuries.

“It’s extremely unusual, so I credit the investigators for uncovering this type of incident — especially, you can imagine, how difficult it is to get statements and evidence in such a circumstance.” Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said in crediting state police and county detectives.

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Authorities said the two inmates got into a dispute over telephone use. They allege that Pierce approached Martinez, saying he wanted to fight Gearhart, and was told to take the dispute “up to the cell.” During a fight in Gearhart’s cell, another inmate passed Pierce a weapon and Gearhart was stabbed in the neck, authorities allege.

Later, as Martinez was accompanying a nurse delivering medications, authorities allege that Pierce told him, “I stuck him” and Martinez laughed. Authorities also allege that when other inmates said Gearhart was unresponsive, Martinez responded with an expletive and said “let the next shift deal with it.”

The charges allege that in failing to stop the fight and suggesting a location, Martinez’s actions “recklessly and/or grossly negligently violated his job duties.” He was arraigned Wednesday afternoon and bail was set at $50,000. Pierce remains in custody without bail. Preliminary hearings for both men are slated for July 15.

Court documents don’t list attorneys for the defendants. A listed number for Martinez had been disconnected, and the Luzerne County public defender’s office couldn’t be reached Wednesday afternoon for possible comment on the charges against Pierce, who was being represented by a public defender on charges in another county.