Family of murdered inmate ‘devastated’ after EMDC staff trial leads to acquittal, mistrial

A photo of Adam Kargus, who was beaten to death by his cellmate Oct. 2014.
A photo of Adam Kargus, who was beaten to death by his cellmate Oct. 2014. 980 CFPL

A jury reached different decisions for two Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) employees who were charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to inmate Adam Kargus.

After two days of deliberating, a jury acquitted former operations manager Stephen Jurkus but couldn’t make a decision about his co-accused, former correctional officer Leslie Lonsbary.

That led to the declaration of a mistrial and means Lonsbary will be back in court next week to start the process again.

READ MORE: Despite juror delay, trial of former EMDC staffers gets underway at London courthouse

The decision came Tuesday evening, and according to a lawyer who represents many inmates at the troubled provincial jail, has “devastated” Kargus’s family.

“They sat through a trial that dragged on for about four weeks, and listened attentively and hoped at the end of it they would get some form of closure,” Kevin Egan said.

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“All this family has to cling to at this point is that Adam’s death means something. That it will be a catalyst for change so that other families don’t suffer in the way they have. I think that was expressed by Adam’s mother [Deb Abrams].”

READ MORE: ‘I forgive you,’ Adam Kargus’s mom confronts killer before he’s sentenced to life in prison

Egan said part of the defence’s argument was that management at the facility turned a blind eye to correctional officers who hadn’t been following orders for a very long time.

The defence’s question was “how can you hold me responsible for not following orders, when you kind of turned a blind eye to that fact for years?” he explained.

“There was a lot of evidence about the shortcomings of Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre. … It points to the systemic issues at EMDC that government seems very reluctant to fix.”

Egan suggests the jury had a difficult time understanding the concept of the charge, failing to provide the necessaries of life, and that it had been divided in its opinions about whether Lonsbary was criminally responsible.

Failure to provide the necessaries of life involves neglecting to provide enough food, clothing, shelter or medical care to someone you’re legally responsible for.

READ MORE: Former Strathroy couple charged in toddler’s scalding death found guilty

Kargus was beaten to death by his cellmate, Anthony George, Oct. 31, 2013. His body was found in the showers the next morning, wrapped in bloody clothing and bedding, his face so badly beaten that it was unrecognizable. George pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree murder four years later.

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During the trial for the EMDC employees, the Crown accused Jurkus of failing to act on information from another officer, including that George, a known violent offender, was intoxicated from alcoholic “brew” the night of Kargus’ murder.

Lonsbary was accused of not following a mandated routine upon taking control of the jail range and for failing to adequately monitor the inmates in keeping with the jail’s standard operating procedures.

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