Multiple Ohio prison deaths include inmate arguing innocence

This undated photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections shows Carlos Ridley. Ridley, serving a life sentence for a triple slaying, was awaiting a court ruling this month he hoped would help him prove innocence through DNA testing. On Monday, May 4, 2020, an Ohio appeals court rejected Ridley's request. The next day, he was rushed to a hospital where he died of COVID-19, according to his two daughters. (Ohio Department of Corrections via AP)
This undated photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections shows Carlos Ridley. Ridley, serving a life sentence for a triple slaying, was awaiting a court ruling this month he hoped would help him prove innocence through DNA testing. On Monday, May 4, 2020, an Ohio appeals court rejected Ridley's request. The next day, he was rushed to a hospital where he died of COVID-19, according to his two daughters. (Ohio Department of Corrections via AP) (Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio prison inmate Carlos Ridley, four decades into a life sentence for a triple slaying, was awaiting a court ruling this month he hoped would help him prove innocence through DNA testing.

On Monday, an Ohio appeals court rejected Ridley’s request. The next day, he was rushed to a hospital where he died of COVID-19, according to his two daughters.

His last message to them, a few days earlier: “This has been very hard two weeks I feel as if I’ve aged at lease 10 years.”

Ohio has the country’s highest per-prisoner COVID-19 case rate and the fifth-highest prisoner death rate, according to an analysis of state prison cases by The Marshall Project, a nonprofit investigative newsroom dedicated to the U.S. criminal justice system.

At least 45 Ohio prison inmates have died of COVID-19, 27 of them housed — like Ridley — in central Ohio's Pickaway Correctional Institution, which includes a medical center. More than 4,300 inmates and nearly 500 staff members have tested positive statewide.

The family only learned Ridley had been hospitalized when someone from Ohio State University's hospital called Tuesday afternoon, his daughters said. Six hours later, a doctor called to say Ridley had died and that the cause was COVID-19.

“He kept telling us he was sick, for almost two weeks,” his daughter Kenosha Hines, of Columbus, said Thursday. Their 69-year-old father was so ill on April 30 that he had a hard time keeping his head up on a prison video call, she said.

Ridley’s daughters said their father received a negative coronavirus test result in late April and was placed with other inmates who had also tested negative but seemed sick. He had struggled with health problems, including colon and prostate cancer, and used a wheelchair. The family was told he went quickly as blood clots formed in his lungs.