PRIDE Operation Results in Murder
The Sad Facts of the Demise of Donna Jo Fitzgerald
On June 25, 2008 inmates working for PRIDE at the Heavy Equipment Industry at Florida's Tomoka Correctional Institution worked an overtime shift. Thirteen inmates worked that evening finishing production of two fire trucks for a customer. The scheduled DOC security officer, Michael Filbert, spoke with fellow officer Donna Fitzgerald telling her that he had a family "emergency" and requested she take his shift at the PRIDE facility that evening. Ms. Fitzgerald had worked that assignment in the past and true to her nature, readily agreed to take his shift.
Institutional policy required FDOC and PRIDE to have at least two employees in attendance any time inmates were working. This was no problem during normal day shifts, but at night the DOC and PRIDE had demonstrated a laxness to comply with this safety requirement. June 25, 2008 was one of those shifts where this policy was violated with only one officer was in attendance - Donna Fitzgerald.
She returned the inmates to their housing areas at the close of the shift. When she did so it was discovered that one inmate was missing. The inmate was Enoch Hall who was serving two life sentences without parole and had a federal sentence of forty plus years to follw should he ever be released by Florida authorities.
Fitzgerald reported the missing inmate and said she would return and look for Hall. Upon her return to PRIDE's plant she searched for Hall and finally located him in a welding shed adjacent to the plant. When she attempted to take Hall into custody, he jumped her and fatally stabbed her more than 12 times. The attack resulted in Fitzgerald's death. Later on FDOC officials became concerned about an inability to contact Fitzgerald by radio or phone and began looking for her at the PRIDE facility.
Other officers approached the Industry and upon arrival saw an inmate fleeing out of a door to the shed building. They apprehended him and placed him in hand cuffs before turning their search to Fitzgerald's where abouts. She was quickly discovered in the shed where Hall was seen fleeing. Her lifeless body was found slumped over a cart in a storage room in the shed area. They found Fitzgerald partially covered by a blanket with her uniform pants and underwear rolled down to her ankles. They quickly established that Fitzgerald was dead.
The History and Story Behind A Senseless Murder
A life had been needlessly forfeited by the attack of inmate Hall that night. He made statenents to the officers who took him into custody. Hall claimed he didn't know why he killed Fitzgerald, saying: "I just snapped and killed her, I don't know why."
Hall was charged with murder and transferred to Florida State Prison (FSP) at Starke, Florida. Authorities of several agencies - FDOC, PRIDE and FDLE began thorough investigations into the circumstances surrounding this tragic incident. On October 30, 2008 the FDOC's Inspector General's office completed the report and submitted it to Inspector General, Paul Decker (see: Tomoka CI.Report.pdf in files section for full report). The report indicated a situation fraught with violations by the institutional classification staff, the Chief Correctional Officer, Warden and two Assistant Wardens, and PRIDE Management at the prison industry.
The investigation found that on the shift that Fitzgerald was working, 8 of the 13 inmates assigned were serving life sentences and most of them had been convicted of serious crimes including murder, rape, sexual assault, etc. It was further revealed that during the overtime necessitated to be conducted in the evening, the FDOC had authorized no more than 10 inmates work and no later than 7:00 pm. Despite this limited authority, PRIDE worked as many as 25 inmates at a time on a total of 38 shifts as late as 8:05 pm.. Of those 61 shifts Officer Fitzgerald worked 10 shifts and was alone on 6 of those shifts. Another female CO, Tammy Smith had worked 10 late shifts and 9 of those she worked alone.
On October 23, 2009 Enoch Hall was convicted of premeditated first degree murder for killing Officer Fitzgerald. The sentencing phase will begin on October 27th when the jury considers whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison. A life sentence would in effect be no punishment at all for Hall, who was serving two life sentences at the time he killed Ms. Fitzgerald. Only the death penalty will suffice in this situation. Inmates serving life sentences, who believe they will only receive an additional life sentence for murdering staff members, would further jeopardize those brave men and women who work within state prisons.
By recommending a sentence of death, the jury and court would be sending a clear message to inmates that the value of a human life - even in the prison environment - is the same as on the street, and the penalty for taking that life will be the forfeiture of your own upon conviction.