BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — West Virginia State Police are investigating reports of a Mercer County woman who died as a result of a violent sexual attack at Southern Regional Jail, according to attorney Stephen P. New.
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Kimberly Gilley is the twelfth reported death this year of an inmate while under the care of the jail, based on records the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security provided in November.
New, who has been detained by Gilley’s mother to represent the victim’s estate, said Gilley did not get adequate medical care after the alleged attack.
“She was assaulted by fellow female inmates, attacked, taken apart, and beaten and ripped, looking for drugs,” said New. “They were actually tearing at her private areas.”
Those inside the jail have since told Gilley’s family they witnessed the deadly attack on the 44-year-old mother, who was in jail for a parole violation on a shoplifting charge, according to New.
New said he is in the process of filing a civil lawsuit on behalf of Gilley’s estate.
Beckley attorney Robert Dunlap said on Friday, December 9, 2022, he received multiple reports of women being sexually assaulted if they leave the jail and return. Dunlap said other inmates believe the women may have drugs hidden in their bodies, which is the motivation for the attacks.
Legally, penetration of another person against their will, with any object, is considered sexual assault, New’s legal team said.
In a class action lawsuit pending in United States District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia, New, Dunlap and other attorneys allege Southern Regional Jail fails to provide adequate medical care and counseling to those who are incarcerated while addicted to substances and that the jail fails to protect inmates from physical and sexual attacks.
In Gilley’s case, New alleged, a gang of six to eight women strangled and attacked her, focusing on her lower body as well.
“Guards looked on,” charged New. “C.O.’s (correctional officers) looked on while this happened, and, according to witnesses inside the pod, it was such a bloody mess of a scene that Hazmat had to be called in to clean that area up.”
New said Southern Regional transferred Gilley to a hospital for medical care after the alleged sexual assault. It is unclear if the jail provided psychological counseling to Gilley following the reported rape.
New said Gilley was brought back to the jail after a brief hospital visit but was later found unresponsive at the jail. He said the jail again transported Gilley for outside medical care, this time to Beckley ARH Hospital.
He reported Gilley was on life support for several days, before dying on November 30.
Southern Regional Jail is under a federal investigation, in response to the March death of Quantez Burks, a Beckley man whose family alleges was beaten to death within 24 hours of being in state custody at Southern Regional.
Wexford Health, one of the defendants named in the class action civil suit, filed a motion requesting the federal lawsuit be dismissed.
“We look forward to that case moving forward,” New said. “Something has to give, here. Something has to happen within the correctional system of the State of West Virginia where these conditions aren’t allowed to continue to exist.”
State officials recently reported to lawmakers that correctional officers work 60 to 80 hours each week and that officers from the West Virginia National Guard and other agencies are acting as correctional officers at state jails, a situation that is unsustainable.
West Virginia Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond Friday, December 9, 2022, to a request for comment.
Morgan Switzer, who was chief counsel for WVDHS, announced she is no longer with the agency.