A 44-year-old cancer patient who was diagnosed with melanoma while at Southern Regional Jail died at a Beckley facility on Thursday, about two months after his attorney had successfully petitioned a Raleigh County Circuit Court judge to release him on home confinement.
The prisoner's girlfriend, Stephanie Ashley of Artie, told The Register-Herald in October that the prisoner, Eddie Williams Jr. of Artie, had received inadequate medical care at the jail from July until his October release to her home for home confinement.
Williams' attorney, Robert Dunlap, said Thursday that Williams' condition had deteriorated by the time he was placed on home confinement.
Dunlap had first asked the court in August to release Williams to home confinement so that he could receive better medical care than the care that SRJ was providing. Raleigh Circuit Judge Darl Poling had denied that request.
Raleigh Circuit Judge Andrew Dimlich released Williams on Oct. 7 to Ashley's home, after Dunlap had sent photos of Williams' excision wound to Dimlich, another circuit judge and to Raleigh Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller.
Dimlich ordered that Williams, who had violated parole in December 2018, would be monitored with an ankle bracelet and was only permitted to leave the house for medical care.
"Eddie was always kind of built," Dunlap said on Thursday. "He was a really strong guy.
"The last two times I saw him in the hospital, he looked like an 80-year-old man.
"I didn't even recognize him," said Dunlap, who added that he had executed a will for Williams on Saturday, at Williams' request. "It was heartbreaking."
Williams had entered SRJ on Jan. 3 after Dimlich revoked his bond for a January 2018 charge that was related to mine theft, according to Raleigh County Circuit Court records.
Williams' bond was revoked after he and three co-defendants —Williams' cousin Kayla Williams, 25, of Artie, Erica Treadway, 31, of Pax in Fayette County, and the late 21-year-old Cody Beverly of Clear Creek, who died on Sunday — admitted to entering a mine on Dec. 9, 2018.
Friends and family told media that the four had entered the mine to steal copper wire.
Williams, the only one with mining experience, had exited the mine and gone to Ashley's home. Ashley said the two had been estranged at the time he entered the mine.
Gov. Jim Justice launched an effort that resulted in the rescue of the three left in the mine. All, including Williams, were later arrested on charges stemming from entering the mine illegally.
Williams turned himself into police on Dec. 21 and was remanded to SRJ on Jan. 3, court records show.
In July, Williams had a lesion on his back, which appeared in court photo records to be about the size of a dime.
A biopsy on Aug. 13 by SRJ-contracted physicians determined the lesion was malignant, the court record showed.
On Sept. 10, another excision was performed by a contracted physician. Court records show the physician had planned a future skin graft and noted that Williams' wound was at risk of an infection.
In an Aug. 28 hearing, court transcripts show, Dunlap had told Raleigh Circuit Court Judge Darl Poling that Williams could not get adequate health care while incarcerated, specifically mentioning that Williams had a malignant tumor and no access to a second opinion on treatments while his health care was limited to SRJ contracted physicians.
He reported that the cancer had progressed while Williams was at SRJ, after Williams had notified SRJ staff of the lesion and waited several months for a biopsy.
Dunlap said Williams' excision wound was not being cleaned and dressed daily, as required, and had become infected.
Prosecuting Attorney Keller had argued against home confinement at the Aug. 28 hearing, on the basis that a previous $50,000 bond had not deterred Williams from committing a crime.
Court documents show Keller had accessed Williams' medical records prior to the Aug. 28 hearing. She later told The Register-Herald that she believed on Aug. 28 that Williams was receiving adequate medical care and that, because he had no medical card, the care at SRJ was better than care he could get on home confinement.
Poling ordered Williams to remain at SRJ.
In early October, Dunlap submitted photos of the cancer progression to Keller, Poling and two more judges on Raleigh Circuit Court.
A picture taken in July showed a dime-sized lesion. Within weeks, a second photo showed, the lesion had apparently progressed to the size of a man's fist. The wound was infected and stuffed with gauze.
At an Oct. 7 hearing, Raleigh Circuit Judge Andrew Dimlich agreed to release Williams to home confinement.
Keller was not immediately available on Thursday to offer a comment on Williams' death.
She said Oct. 9 that she had opposed Dunlap's motion for home confinement at the Aug. 28 hearing and again on Oct. 7 before Dimlich because, based on Williams' record of being charged with crimes while out on bond, she did not believe he was an ideal candidate for home confinement.
"As part of the hearings, the judge did grant me permission to speak with his medical provider," she had stated on Oct. 9. "It was my understanding, from the information I received, and that was part of the court record, that he was getting adequate care.
"However, what the defense alleged is that his condition was worsening.
"I have no complaints against Judge Dimlich exercising compassion," she said on Oct. 9 of Williams' Oct. 7 release to home confinement.
Ashley said in October that she had watched Williams' condition deteriorate while he was at the jail.
At one point, she said, Williams' loved ones had reached out to Gov. Jim Justice in an effort to get adequate attention to Williams' situation.
Ashley said in October that when Williams left the jail and entered her home, his medical condition was unacceptable.
She and Williams had been in a relationship that spanned more than two decades, she told The Register-Herald in October.
"I know it was hard to see the true him in this situation," Ashley said on Thursday, in a brief statement released by Dunlap. "But my Facebook page is filled with all the peoples' lives he affected.
"So many people loved him, and it wasn't right."