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More K2 prison deaths confirmed

Devon Lemay was six weeks shy of getting out of prison after a 10 year sentence when he died after smoking K2.

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) –

In November, KATV brought you a special report about inmates dying inside Arkansas prisons after smoking the synthetic drug K2.

Since we started looking at the problem back in July, 34 people in state prisons have died. We have no idea how many of those deaths are K2-related...but we can share news of several more confirmed more K2 related deaths.

During a 23 day stretch back in August and September...five inmates died in three different Arkansas prisons.

Synthetic cannabinoids...or K2...has now been linked to three of those deaths. The other two remain under investigation.

"I said there's gotta be a reason that that boy just falls dead," says Lisa Parker of Texarkana regarding her younger brother.

All that remains of 32 year-old Devon Lemay are his cremains.

Lemay was six weeks away from freedom when he died alone in his prison cell at Brickeys in Lee county.

"I said please...just tell me something,” says Parker. “And she said all right Ms. Parker. He OD'd from K2. They didn't want me to know that."

And Parker didn't know for sure what caused Devon's death until she got word from the Arkansas Crime Lab this week.

Cause of death: synthetic cannabinoid use. Manner of death: accidental.

"He had written me several letters about...can you help me get restarted?” recalls Parker. “You know...I've been here for ten years and I don't...I don't even know where to start no more."

Lemay is the third K2 related prison death Channel Seven has been able to confirm since our first special report on this issue back in November.

30 year-old Cody Brickner was serving a four year sentence out of Scott and Sebastian counties.

He died September 2nd at Tucker Max. A State Police investigation determined that "Brickner died as a result of synthetic cannabinoid toxicity." The report notes that "K2 and Spice...these designer drugs have been shown to have highly potent, toxic effects in humans."

29 year-old Kenneth Jones was serving a 25 year sentence out of Baxter county. He was found dead in his cell at Cummins prison on September 9th. A State Police report indicates "...there was evidence of K2 abuse at the scene."

K2 may be linked to at least two other deaths...James Walker who was at Cummins and Anthony Howard who was at Brickeys...but the State Police is still investigating.

Despite the danger, synthetic drugs have become increasingly popular in prison primarily because they are hard to detect.

An inmate who fails a drug or alcohol test is subject to a month in isolation, a loss of privileges or worse.

While some correctional officers have been fired for smuggling in contraband there have been few prosecutions.

Lisa Parker fears no one is trying to find out...or worse...that no one cares who supplied the K2 that killed her brother.

Parker also believes it is most likely prison employees who are supplying K2 to prison inmates. But she has another possibility: those visiting for religious reasons.

"Also while we were there a Catholic minister...I don't...who knows if he was or not...brings in a briefcase and walks...he said this is for communion,” recalls Parker. “He never was checked. Never did the x-ray, check him or anything."

We requested in an interview with state prison director Wendy Kelley but were told her schedule was booked. So we submitted two written questions: What new steps are being taken to keep K2 and other drugs out and is anyone being prosecuted?

The ADC has installed new body scanning equipment at the four maximum security facilities.

Six officers recently received special training to better identify contraband rings.

Director Kelley is pushing for more prosecutions related to criminal activity inside Arkansas prisons.

Speaking of prosecutions...in 2015 there were 13 contraband-related cases investigated by the State Police that resulted in two convictions.

In 2016 23 contraband investigations resulted in eight convictions.

The 2017 numbers are still being tabulated.

It should be noted that contraband can include weapons, cell-phones...even cigarettes.

We are not aware of any charges involving supplying drugs that led to an inmate's death.

Air date: February 1st, 2018

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