British Columbia

Mother of prison cell murder victim demands justice

The distraught mother of a prison inmate murdered by a calculating serial killer in their shared cell told a coroner's jury on Tuesday the officials who bunked her son with the convict should be fired.

Tearful mother demands official who put her son with killer Michael McGray be fired

Jeremy Phillips, 33, was found dead in his cell at the medium-security Mountain Institute in Agassiz, B.C., in November 2010, about one week after he was put in the same cell as McGray. (Corrections Canada)

The distraught mother of a prison inmate murdered by a calculating serial killer in their shared cell told a coroner's jury on Tuesday the officials who bunked her son with the convict should be fired.

"I keep asking myself and believe so should everyone else how [corrections] and their staff could put something so evil as Michael Wayne McGray in the same cell with my son or any other human being," said a tearful Lela Phillips.

"I would expect whoever did this has lost their jobs, not just transferred to another jail where they could do the same thing again," Phillips said in a strained voice.

Jeremy Phillips, 33, was found dead in his cell at the medium-security Mountain Institute in Agassiz, B.C., in November 2010, about one week after he was put in the same cell as McGray.

The 45-year-old McGray was serving a life sentence for six murders, while Phillips, from Nova Scotia, was incarcerated on a six-year sentence for aggravated assault.

The coroner's jury can't find fault in Phillips' death, instead its members are tasked with examining the safety of inmates in the prison system by making recommendations towards preventing similar deaths in the future.

They began deliberations on Tuesday afternoon.

During the day's proceedings, the three men and two women heard that federal corrections officers who assessed the violent killer before transferring him from B.C.'s only high-security prison believed the man was repentant.

An assistant warden at Mountain Institute explained the rationale behind the move, and why McGray was paired with Phillips.

"He indicated he was committed to his correctional plan ... He was performing very well," Brenda Lamm said.

"I believe he was making a sincere effort. I don't believe that he manipulated the staff."

McGray confessed to police that he bound Phillips with bedsheets and stuffed a sock in the willing man's mouth as part of an elaborate hostage-taking ruse they concocted together.

But McGray admitted that he had planned to turn on Phillips all along, gratifying his own murderous urges.

McGray pleaded guilty to first-degree murder a year later, was handed another life sentence and placed in another maximum-security prison.

Phillip's family filed a lawsuit against Correction Services of Canada for his death last year.

With files from the CBC’s Jason Proctor

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