Woman Attacked At Youth Prison

Woman Attacked At Youth Prison 2/95
 
By William Simonsen
Condon, Mont. — Sunday evening a trusty who was serving time on a previous murder conviction attacked an employee at the Swan River minimum security prison severely injuring her.
Donna Weeks, 47, was severely beaten and strangled in the room in the administration building on the prison campus where she lived.
As of press time, Weeks had not regained consciousness and was listed in critical condition at Kalispell Regional Hospital.
Sally Johnson, deputy director of the state Department of Corrections and Human Services said Weeks was allegedly attacked in her quarters by Rodney Sattler, 27.
Sattler was serving a sentence of 55 years, with 25 years suspended, for a 1987 conviction on deliberate homicide charges, court records said.
Court records in Sanders County show Sattler pleaded guilty to strangling 25-year-old Diane Stout to death in Thompson Falls July 6, 1986.
During sentencing in 1987 District Judge C.B. McNeil designated Sattler a dangerous offender. The sentence included a provision placing Sattler under control of the court until he is 70 years of age.
Sattler was assigned to the minimum security facility in the Swan Valley in September, 1993.
Johnson said 10 trustys are currently assigned to the boot camp facility to do menial tasks like cooking and maintenance.
Currently 24 inmates are in the boot camp training program at the prison.
Twenty department employees oversee operations at the prison.
Lake County Sheriff Joe Geldrich said a call came into his office at 7:40 p.m. reporting the attack,
Geldrich said Weeks’ screams attracted the attention of another trusty who interrupted the beating, then notified prison authorities.
Officials said Sattler wrote obsenities on the walls of Weeks’ room with her blood during the attack.
Sattler then ran through the prison yard and across Montana 83 to Swan River State Forest headquarters, where he gave himself up, said Geldrich.
No security fence surrounds the minimum security facility.
Geldrich said Sattler was detained by state forest employee Glenn Gray until Missoula County Deputy Sheriff Bob Parcell arrived on the scene.
Sattler was taken into custody by Parcell and held until a Lake County deputy could travel to the scene.
He was transported to the Lake County Jail where he is being held without bond.
Sattler was charged with one count of attempted deliberate homicide Monday afternoon in Justice Court in Polson.
A preliminary hearing in the case was set for Feb. 9.
Lake County officials said attempted deliberate homicide carries the same maximum sentence as deliberate homicide — death, life in prison, or not less than 10 or more than 100 years in prison — if convicted.
Johnson said Sattler will probably be returned to Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge to await trial, rather than be held in the county jail.
She said Sattler will likely be housed in the maximum security unit at the prison.
She said Weeks was employed as a staff administrative assistant at the camp since 1987.
She said rooms are provided for temporary housing for employees in the administration building due to a chronic shortage of housing near the prison.
Weeks was living in one of the rooms in the administration building since “losing her house” shortly before Christmas, Johnson said.
She said Weeks was scheduled to move into a new house next week.
Johnson said Mike Ferriter, warden of community corrections for the department, traveled to the prison Monday morning to investigate the attack.
She said Ferriter was also directed to investigate security at the prison.
The Alert helicopter was dispatched to the scene from Kalispell but was turned back by icing conditions.
Condon QRU  members were the first medical personnel on the scene, where they were joined by members of the Bigfork QRU.
The Bigfork QRU ambulance transported Weeks to the helicopter where it waited in Swan Lake.
But medical personnel opted to transport Weeks to Kalispell Regional Hospital  by ground ambulance due to her unstable condition.
A press release from the department said trusties selected for support services at the prison are screened by an interview team of staff members.
“It is not contemplated that any other trusties will be returned to Montana State Prison,” the press release said.
The prison has housed a military-style boot camp since July, 1993.
 
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.
 
 
Youth Prison Attack  Follow-up 3/8/95
 
By William Simonsen 
Condon, Mont. — The victim of a brutal attack by a trusty at the minimum security prison in the Swan Valley identified her attacker during questioning by investigators Monday.
Donna Weeks, who was attacked in her quarters at the prison was questioned in her hospital room by Lake County Attorney Kim Christopher and Sheriff Joe Geldrich.
It was the first time Weeks was able to make a statement to officials about the attack.
Rodney Sattler, a trusty at the prison near Condon, was charged with attempted deliberate homicide in connection with the Jan. 29 attack.
Sattler, 27, who was arrested the night of the attack is being held in the Lake County jail without bond. He pleaded not guilty to the charge at his arraignment Feb. 15.
Christopher said Weeks “has recovered sufficiently to provide details about Sattler’s attempt on her life.”
Weeks, 47, has been hospitalized since the attack.
Her neck was broken and she was severely beaten and strangled during the attack in the bathroom of her quarters in the administration building at the prison.
Because Weeks remained in a coma for about one month after the attack, officials speculated she suffered brain damage as a result of the attack because oxygen was cut off from her brain during the strangulation.
Tuesday Christopher said, “I have every expectation (Weeks) will recover satisfactorily.”
Christopher said she is confident Weeks will be able to testify against Sattler during a trial.
Christopher said her investigation will continue “as Weeks’ condition continues to improve.”
Weeks’ children want her moved to a rehabilitation facility in California. Christopher said the move would not hinder her prosecution of Sattler.
Allegations contained in court records said Weeks life was spared because the attack was interrupted by another trusty at the prison who heard her screams.
The official complaint against Sattler also alleges he fled the scene of the attack, running across the highway to state forest headquarters where he was arrested.
Sattler was moved to the Swan Valley prison and assigned to duty as a trusty in 1993 after serving about six years of a 55 year sentence at Montana State Prison for a previous murder.
Sattler pleaded guilty to strangling 25-year-old Diane Stout to death and abandoning her body near the railroad tracks in downtown Thompson Falls on July 6, 1986.
He was designated a dangerous offender by District Judge C.B. McNeil when sentenced in 1987.
McNeil is also assigned to preside in the Weeks case
Court records show a search warrant was issued to obtain head and pubic hair samples, and finger and palm prints from Sattler as part of the investigation.
Sattler allegedly wrote obscenities on the walls of the bathroom with Weeks’ blood during the attack.
The records also show the court has given permission for Sattler’s attorney, public defender Ben Anciaux, to hire a private investigator to conduct a separate investigation of the case.
An omnibus hearing in the case in scheduled for March 22.
If Sattler is convicted on the charge he could be sentenced to the death penalty, life in prison, or not less than 10 or more than 100 years in prison.
 
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.
 
 Youth Prison Staffed With Murderers 4/5/96
 
By William Simonsen 
Condon, Mont. — Three trusties at the minimum security prison in the Swan Valley were in trouble with authorities before the Jan. 29 near-fatal beating of a prison employee by a fourth trusty.
Between September, 1993 and July, 1994 three administrative hearings were held for the trusties for infractions of rules while working as support personnel for the boot camp program based at the camp, said a letter from Rick Day, director of the Department of Corrections and Human Services.
Day’s letter was written to Lake County Attorney Kim Christopher in response to allegations made in a letter to her and Lake County Sheriff Joe Geldrich from Richard Syverson and Elton Brendsel, former employees at the Swan Valley prison.
Syverson and Brendsel alleged possible criminal acts dating back several years at the prison.
Christopher forwarded the letter from Syverson and Brendsel to John Connor, assistant state attorney general.
Ward McKay of the state Criminal Investigation Bureau investigated the allegations but found them to be personnel matters, said a letter from Connor to Day.
After the attack on employee Donna Weeks, it was discovered that nine of the 10 trusties at the camp were convicted of killing.
Two of the trusties killed infants.
Five killed women.
Day said the first incident involving a trusty at the camp occurred shortly after the boot camp program was initiated.
On Sept. 21, 1993, trusty Ernest Beavers “left his assigned duties in the lodge and was located in the car port area adjacent to the lodge,” wrote Day.
Beavers returned to his assigned duty “within minutes of his departure…” said the letter.
The next day Beavers “pleaded guilty to a charge of being in an unauthorized area,” wrote Day.
Beavers signed a “waiver of due process” and was returned to Montana State Prison.
On May 17, 1994, trusty William Sigler, 34, who was serving time for murdering an infant boy in 1982, “was issued a major misconduct violation” for allegedly being in an unauthorized area and conduct which disrupts, wrote Day.
Sigler was found not guilty of the violation because the area in question was not clearly marked and identified in prison policy, he wrote.
The hearing panel recommended a change in prison policy.
Sigler reportedly helped in first aid efforts to revive Weeks after the attack in January.
The third incident involving a trusty at the prison occurred on July 7, 1994, six months before Weeks’ beating.
Trusty Mark DeMeres was issued a major misconduct violation “for walking in an unauthorized area” on the prison property.
He was returned to Montana State Prison on July 18.
He was found guilty of the violation on July 22 and ws kept at the prison, wrote Day.
Last month Weeks identified her attacker as trusty Rodney Sattler who was charged with attempted deliberate homicide.
Sattler, 27, was arrested the night of the attack. He  is being held in the Lake County jail without bond. He pleaded not guilty to the charge at his arraignment Feb. 15.
Weeks, 47, was in a coma for several weeks after the attack. She is currently at a specialized rehabilitation center in California.
Her neck was broken and she was severely beaten and strangled during the attack in the bathroom of her quarters in the administration building at the prison.
Sattler was moved to the Swan Valley prison and assigned to duty as a trusty in 1993 after serving about six years of a 55 year sentence at Montana State Prison for a previous murder.
Sattler pleaded guilty to strangling 25-year-old Diane Stout to death and abandoning her body near the railroad tracks in downtown Thompson Falls on July 6, 1986.
He was designated a dangerous offender by District Judge C.B. McNeil when sentenced in 1987.
Concerning trusties, Day wrote, “During the investigation if the facts suport a criminal charge of escape, the department refers the case for prosecution.
“In our opinion, these infractions were more appropriate for administrative action.”
Day wrote that “approximately one year ago the department toughened its administrative reactioin to escape. In addition to criminal prosecutio, we now rescind all accumulated good time and upon return to the prison, the inmate goes to the maximum security unit.”
Accumulated good time for inmates is used in determining when they are eligible for parole.
 
© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.
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