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Man sentenced in prison death

February 07, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Demetri Antone Dixon was sentenced to three years in prison Monday in the death of his cellmate 13 months ago at the Maryland Correctional Training Center.

Because of the unusual circumstances surrounding the Jan. 8, 1999, death of Mervin James Isley, Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick Wright agreed that the sentence would be served concurrently with the 15-year term Dixon is serving. He is imprisoned at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore.

Dixon, 20, entered a guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter. The maximum penalty could have been an additional 10-year sentence.

"This case raises the question of why these two people were housed together," Wright said. "There was an atmosphere for violence."

Isley was serving a 23-year sentence for drug convictions dating from March 1998. In his 30s, he was from Prince George's County.

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Dixon is in his third year of a 15-year sentence for first-degree assault, which was pleaded down from attempted murder.

Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Duane Gigeous said Dixon told Maryland State Police that Isley had been acting strangely for several days before the fight.

The incident on Jan. 8 began as Isley was preparing to leave the cell he shared with Dixon for his Ramadan dinner, served for those of the Islamic faith, Gigeous said.

Instead of going through the door when it opened, Isley came back into the cell and began yelling and screaming as he approached Dixon, Gigeous said.

Dixon tried to get someone's attention outside the relocked cell but was being hit in the back by Isley, Gigeous said.

"Dixon hit Isley in the head several times, they struggled and Isley went to the floor," Gigeous said.

When Isley didn't move, Dixon threw cold water on his face and tried to revive him, a fact that was substantiated by correctional officers who came into the cell a short time later.

Dixon, who had cuts on his back and shoulders, told investigators that Isley hadn't been taking his medication for paranoid schizophrenia for several days prior to the incident.

Gigeous said the state medical examiner's autopsy couldn't pinpoint a cause of death. But the finding was that a blow to the head could have triggered a cardiac or breathing problem.

James Isley, father of the victim, told Wright he feels there should be reform within the prison system.

"I lost a son," he said. "No one in prison should lose his life there."

Dixon apologized to the Isley family sitting in the front row of the courtroom. "I didn't mean for it to happen," Dixon said.

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