Inmate dies at Centre County jail; first reported death of inmate in 13 years

Centre County passed a milestone of sorts this month with the death of an inmate at the county prison.

Clay Stoker, 51, of State College, was serving a five-year “intermediate punishment” sentence in Centre County’s DUI court program for his third drunk-driving offense, having been caught behind the wheel with two open containers and a blood-alcohol level of .197. According to court documents, that sentence started off with a 90-day stint in the Centre County Correctional Facility and was to be followed by 275 days of home detention with electronic monitoring.

Stoker, however, never got that far.

His court record details his penalty being “assessed” May 13. It is listed as “satisfied” on June 4, the day after he was pronounced dead at Mount Nittany Medical Center.

Stoker holds a unique distinction in the history of the prison. He is the first inmate at the new facility, which opened in 2005, to die while in the county’s custody.

Centre County Administrator Tim Boyde said that it has been even longer since the county has had an inmate die. He points back as far as the mid-1980s, when a prisoner in the old jail, behind the courthouse, where the sheriff’s department is now housed, committed suicide.

Records show another suicide in 2001, when Timothy Kulp, a Penn State freshman, hanged himself at the old jail.

Boyde said that the county is still waiting on a completed autopsy, but at this point, no foul play is suspected in Stoker’s demise. He was careful in releasing information due to privacy concerns, but confirmed that Stoker had health problems.

The Centre County Coroner’s Office confirmed that Stoker died of natural, cardiac-related causes, with pending toxicology results.

A second examination is being conducted, not of the body, but the death itself, as the county’s medical service provider performs a post-mortem review of the situation.

“They would look at whether there were medications that were prescribed, any indications, etc. A total look back, very similar to what you do with an emergency operations situation. What was happening at the time, were there steps to be taken, is there anything to be learned?” said Boyde.

At this point, however, he doesn’t anticipate any changes. Both Boyde and Warden Richard Smith said they believe staff handled the situation appropriately.

“It doesn’t look like there are any flaws or weaknesses in our system,” said Boyde.