Heat Wave Claims an Inmate’s Life at Robertson Unit

Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

The severe heat wave that swept across Texas this weekend claimed at least one life.

On Sunday, an inmate at the Robertson Unit in Abilene, Texas suffered severe heat stroke after falling ill while outside. His core body temperature reached 106 degrees.

Preliminary autopsy findings by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that 29-year-old Seth Donnelly suffered from multiple organ failure due to hyperthermia when his core body temperature soared to 106 degrees.

Early Friday morning, Donnelly went out with an inmate crew to run training exercises for the prison’s search and rescue dogs. Donnelly fell ill and was allowed to sit out the run in a cooled trailer.

When the crew came back from their run Donnelly was in distress. Officers took him back to the unit and paramedics were called. He was then rushed to the hospital.

At the emergency room, Donnelly’s internal body temperature registered 106 degrees. He passed away Sunday while on life support.

Initial toxicology testing at the hospital reports a positive test for methamphetamine. However, caution should be used because quick testing does not indicate if the man was on any medications that might generate a false positive, and the medications which can cause a false positive for methamphetamine are numerous. Also, see https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/726897.

A search of Donnelly’s housing unit and the area by the dog run trails did not turn up any illicit drugs.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice reports that foul play is not suspected.

The final autopsy report will not be available until late July or early August.

The Office of Inspector General–TDCJ is investigating the death.

Donnelly was serving a 12-year sentence for intoxicated manslaughter. He would have been eligible for parole next year. Donnelly’s death is the 24th in the Texas Prison System to be attributable to heat.


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