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Investigation underway into another inmate death at Benner state prison

A Benner state prison inmate serving time for a third-degree murder conviction from Carbon County died Sunday, making him at least the sixth inmate to die at the prison this year.

Prison staff and medical personnel provided emergency assistance to Yessy Rivera, 32, who was found unresponsive in his cell Sunday. He was transported to Mount Nittany Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to a release from the state Department of Corrections.

State police are investigating Rivera’s death and the Centre County coroner’s office will determine the cause of death. Rivera was serving a 20-40 year sentence and arrived at the prison in June, according to the release.

Rivera’s death is the continuation of the prison’s tempestuous year.

From 2013 to 2018, 28 inmates died at the prison. Twenty-three were ruled natural, three were ruled suicide and two were ruled accidental, according to state DOC data obtained through a right-to-know request.

In 2019, two inmates died by suicide, two died of natural causes and one died by homicide, according to DOC data.

Conard Carpenter and Joseph Little died by suicide at the prison in January and February, respectively. Derric Harsh died by strangulation in February, and the Centre County Coroner’s office ruled his death a homicide.

That was the first homicide in the prison’s six-year history. Nobody has been charged in connection to the death.

At least four inmates died at Rockview state prison this year. David Fry and Logan Splain died by suicide in February and March, respectively. The other two deaths were ruled natural.

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.
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