Alabama inmate found unconscious in cell dies in hospital

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama inmate serving a life sentence for a 1985 double murder has died two days after being found injured in his cell.

Victor Joseph Russo, 60, was discovered unconscious Wednesday at the William Donaldson Correctional Facility in western Jefferson County, the coroner’s office said. Russo had blunt force injuries. He was taken to UAB Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 2:02 a.m. Friday. reported.

Deputy Chief Coroner Bill Yates said the circumstances under which Russo suffered the injuries were unknown. His death has not yet been ruled a homicide.

The circumstances surrounding the death are being investigated by the Intelligence and Investigations Division of the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Russo was serving life without parole for the Jefferson County murders of Robert Allen Sparks and Billy Curtis Raymond in 1985. A jury found him guilty of capital murder and recommended a death sentence, but on the day of sentencing, Russo entered a plea deal to life in prison without parole, records show.

Russo is the second Donaldson inmate to die this week.

Barry Wardell Gardner, 33, of Montgomery, was fatally stabbed on Tuesday.

Gardner was serving a 13-year sentence for convictions in 2014 for property theft and burglary in Montgomery County.

Yates said Gardner was found in an open-style dorm with visceral injuries. He was taken to the prison infirmary where he was pronounced dead, Yates said. Gardner’s death is being investigated as a homicide.

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