SALT LAKE CITY — Ted Davey was supposed to be paroled this coming Tuesday.
“I was excited to see him,” said his daughter, Patricia Davey. “I was anticipating him just being happy and just to see the smile on his face when he got out.”
It was Sunday — nine days before his release — when Patricia Davey’s brother received a phone call from the Utah Department of Corrections. Their father was found dead in his cell at the Gunnison prison. He was 62.
Ted Davey — an arborist who worked in the tree-trimming business — was finishing a sentence for multiple driving under the influence charges. What a senior citizen with nonviolent offenses was doing housed in a high-security area of the prison was one of the questions the Davey family wants answered.
So far, Patricia Davey says, they have received almost no answers. Families of other inmates have relayed that Ted Davey’s cellmate strangled him, Patricia Davey said. Bruises on her father’s neck, visible when she saw his body at the mortuary, corroborate the account.
But the Department of Corrections hasn’t confirmed that.
“I feel like we deserve to know,” Patricia Davey said.
The state medical examiner conducted the autopsy. Those results are pending.
Patricia Davey doesn’t know the cellmate’s name. What she does know is that her father complained about him over the telephone.
“My dad was also requesting to be moved,” she said. “The guy was telling my dad he needed to be moved.”
“The guy had been stealing things from my dad that he had ordered on commissary,” Patricia Davey added, “and that's kind of how the altercations began.”
Patricia Davey said she and her sister also called the Gunnison prison requesting her father be moved.
“And they just basically told us there was there was nothing they could do," she said.
A Department of Corrections spokesman declined a FOX 13 interview request or to answer questions, citing the investigation.
Molly Prince, the co-founder of Utah Prisoner Advocate Network, said it’s plausible Davey asked for a transfer to another cell or housing unit and prison staff — for whatever reason — didn’t act on it. Prince said she and UPAN have fielded calls from families in recent weeks worried their loved ones are incarcerated in unsafe conditions.
In some cases, Prince said, the inmates are housed with rival gang members; in others, the inmates are targeted by an old gang they abandoned. Patricia Davey said her father had no gang affiliation, and that sometimes made him a target from multiple gangs.
So what should Gunnison staff have done when Ted Davey asked to be moved?
“I believe they should have been on it,” Prince said. “The minute that he asked, I believe they should always be on it the minute somebody asks.”
That takes manpower. Department of Corrections Director Brian Nielson told the Utah Legislature last month that he’s so short-staffed, the new prison in Salt Lake City is operating with only 60 percent of required employees. Corrections officers from Gunnison have been moved to Salt Lake City to work shifts.
“There's just not enough staff,” Patricia Davey said. “I think that if there was more people and they were, I don't know, I guess doing their job right. And they could have got there and it could have done something.”
Thus far, no one has been charged with a crime related to Ted Davey’s death.