Disturbing evidence uncovered in James Lonnee inquest

The death of James Lonnee, Ontario's only young offender to have died while in custody is being investigated by a coroner's inquest.

The 16 year-old died in 1996 at Guelph's Wellington Detention Centre. Another inmate, Adam Trotter was convicted of manslaughter in the beating death.

Some say Trotter isn't the only one guilty of wrongdoing in the case.

For the past three months evidence has been laid and testimony heard which reveals prison officials ignored government regulations and put Trotter and Lonnee in the same solitary confinement cell.

The cell was only roughly 2 by 2 metres and had no bars or natural light.

Richard Macklin, a lawyer for a children's rights group says Lonnee's death could have been prevented. Other inmates say they heard Lonnee scream for help for hours.

"While these screams for help were being made these two youth should have been separated," Macklin says. "When one of them says, 'get him out of my cell or I'm gonna kill him,' they're supposed to be separated. You're supposed to be watching them when they're in this kind of distress."

At the coroner's inquest several guards have testified they saw and heard nothing unusual. Two guards on duty even looked into the cell and walked away. They've since been fired.

At a hearing Tuesday, a Guelph police officer testified that charges of criminal negligence causing death were considered in this case but never laid.

Sgt. Russ Malcolmson said the investigation was dropped on advice from the Crown Attorney's office because there wasn't enough proof to convict any staff member in the case.

When the inquest wraps up in a few months time the Ontario solicitor general has said he'll adopt any recommendations. Bob Runciman has already ordered special training for prison guards who work with young offenders.