Trial begins in the murder of inmate at troubled Ontario jail

A trial begins today for Anthony George, charged with second degree murder in the death of Adam Kargus, who died inside the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in October 2013.

Adam Kargus was 29 when he was killed in 2013

Adam Kargus, 29, was killed on October 31st, 2013 at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. (Deb Abrams)

Deb Abrams has been preparing for the last four years to walk into a London courthouse and face the person charged with killing her 29-year-old son, Adam Kargus.

"This has been going on for almost four years," Abrams tells CBC's The Fifth Estate in an interview for an upcoming documentary set to air later this year. "I have to stay strong for my son."

"I want justice for that there isn't another Adam."

Anthony George, Kargus's cellmate inside the Ontario provincial jail, Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC), has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with his death on Oct 31, 2013. The trial starts today and is expected to last three weeks.

A class action lawsuit was certified on behalf of over 10,000 EMDC inmates against the Province of Ontario. The claim seeks over $300 million in damages on behalf of inmates incarcerated there.  

The statement of claim alleges an unsafe environment, overcrowding, lack of care, lack of supervision and lack of sanitary conditions. It also alleges that the jail fostered an atmosphere of "violence, brutality and intimidation."

EMDC has been embroiled in one lawsuit after another over allegations that inmates' rights are routinely violated inside the detention center.

Six staff were fired after Kargus' death for failing to do their jobs. However, three of the guards were able to get their jobs back in April 2017 after an Ontario's grievance settlement board found that the actions of the guards that led to their firing in this case, "have gone on for years, if not decades, and they were open and obvious."

High number of deaths

The board ruled that, "there can be no questions that managers were aware of the practices at EMDC that deviated from written policy..."

One guard who worked at EMDC for decades shares concerns for the high number of deaths at EMDC.

"No one deserves to die in an institution like that. And that's something that's become too prevalent at that jail," he spoke to The Fifth Estate about his time there on the condition that we protect his identity because he fears retribution. "It's tough to really feel any sympathy for what goes on in there. But, I've said all along, nobody deserves to die in there."

Deb Abrams reads one of the last letters her son Adam sent her before his death. (CBC)

Back in her hometown of Sarnia, Ont., Abrams acknowledges that her son Adam had a drug addiction and had struggled to stay clean when he landed in jail.

A tattoo with his name is inked on her left forearm. Around her neck, she wears a silver necklace that holds the vial of ashes of her son. A bumper sticker on her jeep reads, "Justice for Adam."  

She pulls out the last letter her son wrote to her from jail before he died in which he promises to turn his life around.

"Dear Mom, I just wanted to write to express my honest to God gratitude for all your support in all of this...My heart and soul are filled with love to know I have such support...I am going to seek counseling upon my release."

"He didn't get that chance," Abrams says holding the letter in her hands.

About the Author

Habiba Nosheen

Emmy and Peabody award-winning investigative journalist and filmmaker Habiba Nosheen joined The Fifth Estate as a co-host in January 2017.

With files from Joseph Loiero