Nfld. & Labrador

'Mother on a mission' demands inquiry into daughter's death in jail

Piercey says she is 'fighting one last battle' for her daughter, one she intends to win.

Lisa Piercey says the justice system failed her daughter and another inmate who died

Lisa Piercey speaks at a rally held in support of a public inquiry in the death of her daughter Samantha, who died at the Clarenville women's prison in late May. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The mother of an inmate who died at the Clarenville women's prison in May is calling for a public inquiry into the deaths of her daughter and another female inmate this spring. 

Lisa Piercey made the comment at a protest Wednesday afternoon outside the Sir Richard Squires Building in Corner Brook — home to government offices and the courts. 

There were 15 to 20 people at the event, including friends and family of Piercey, as well as staff of the Status of Women Council. 

An independent investigation was announced by the Newfoundland and Labrador government after the death of Samantha Piercey, 28, on May 26 and Skye Martin, 27, who died at the same prison April 21.

But Piercey doesn't expect that to provide the answers she promised her daughter in saying goodbye.

"My words to her were 'Mommy will fight one last battle for you, and I promise that I will win this fight," Lisa Piercey said to the crowd.

She had a message for the justice minister and the premier.

"Andrew Parsons and Dwight Ball, never ever underestimate the power of a mother on a mission, because I'm not going away or stopping until both women get the public inquiry that they so much deserve."

Doesn't believe it was suicide

Lisa Piercey said she was told 48 hours after her daughter's death that it was a suicide — but she doesn't believe it.

"I spoke to her the night before. She was coming back to Corner Brook the following Thursday," she said, adding Samantha was facing trial on charges of assault June 4.

Samantha Piercey, 28, died May 26 at the Clarenville women's prison. Her death was the second at the prison in less than six weeks. (Submitted)

"She really believed come Friday, she was out. She sounded upbeat, she couldn't wait."

Samantha's younger sister April Piercey, who was at the rally, also questions the official explanation of her sister's death.

"I still can't believe that she did this to herself so I really need that, I need them to show me something, give me something to help raise her kids, help get through this myself," April Piercey said.

April Piercey, Samantha Piercey's younger sister, says that her family has unanswered questions about her sister's death. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Piercey said she spoke to her sister, through a friend who sent a message along on the day she died, to let her know she would get in touch when she got a calling card. Her sister replied that evening to say "I understand, I love you," she said.

"She's had a rough life, a really rough life. She was afraid to die, she's so fragile," she said of Samantha.

"I really don't believe it."

Asking for public inquiry, more information

Lisa Piercey plans to travel to St. John's next week to meet with various groups, said will stop at the Clarenville women's prison and RCMP detachment on her way to and from the capital city.

What she hopes to get in those visits is more information about her daughter's last hours and death, she said, including any potential videotape of her cell or the area surrounding it.

Never ever underestimate the power of a mother on a mission, because I'm not going away.- Lisa Piercey

"I want to see the videos. I need to see for myself'.

Both Lisa and April Piercey said they don't believe the independent investigation — which will be led by retired Royal Newfoundland Constabulary veteran Marlene Jesso and cover the deaths of Piercey and Martin, as well as that of a male inmate at Her Majesty's Penetentiary in August — is the appropriate response.

Her understanding is that the investigator's powers are limited, changes won't have to be laid, and the family does not have to be included in the investigation and may not see the findings, Lisa Piercey said.

"Both women, they deserve this public inquiry. Their safety was failed, not just my daughter's but the other woman," Piercey said.

"They failed them."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Colleen Connors