Prisoner deaths probed at Edmonton max, Remand Centre

Separate investigations are underway into the deaths of two Edmonton prisoners Thursday.

Separate investigations are underway into the deaths of two Edmonton prisoners Thursday.

An inmate in his 40s was found dead in his cell on the 4th floor of the Edmonton Remand Centre early Thursday. Police determined the man died of natural causes.

Later Thursday morning, police were dispatched to the Edmonton Institution, the maximum security prison northeast of Edmonton.

Mehari Wodaje, 46, who was doing time for second-degree murder, was found unresponsive in his cell Thursday.

Guards performed CPR and an ambulance was called but Wodaje was declared dead in hospital.

A police spokesman said an investigation indicates Wodaje took his own life.

The Manitoba man had been in the prison since Nov. 5, 2007.

His trial was told Wodaje was in love with Tiruye Yizengaw but was distraught that she had married another man and strangled her to death with a telephone cord.

The trial was told tests indicated Wodaje had sex with her shortly before she was killed. He then tried to kill himself afterward.

The Crown initially charged Wodaje with first-degree murder on the basis the crime had been committed during a sexual assault, but the defence argued the sex was consensual and that Yizengaw was unhappy at having to marry a childhood friend.

The defence also argued the pair had made a suicide pact but that Yizengaw asked Wodaje to kill her first.

However, the Crown presented evidence that Yizengaw was nervous about Wodaje and only reluctantly agreed to meet with him the day she died.

Yizengaw was a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church while Wodaje was in his second year of nursing studies.

with files from Canadian Press