The Death and Rape of a Michigan Corrections Officer — Part 5

The Murder and Investigation

Based on A True Story in Seven Parts

Note: Each part will first be separately published, followed by the entire story published as a single piece.

Part Five

The Murder & Investigation

Soon after Roxie started at Main prison, and her first day on the auditorium gate assignment, Maurice raped and murdered Roxie McFadden. Maurice had a daily work assignment in the prison kitchen, and from there used a stolen and forged prisoner pass to leave his assignment and gain entry to the auditorium.

Warden Biggie Biggins was sent in to investigate Roxie’s murder. His was not a criminal investigation focused on what had happened and who did it, which was already established by the State Police investigation and DNA evidence: Maurice bludgeoned Roxie (probably with her own radio and his fists), raped her while biting her breasts, and strangled her with his belt. Her body was found beaten and naked (except for her bra and blouse wrapped around her waist) in the prison auditorium. Warden Biggins was to conduct an administrative investigation to understand how this could have happened, and soon realized that determining how begged what would become the nagging question why.

Warden Biggie Biggins spent weeks poking around Main Prison, talking to staff on all three shifts, and talking with prisoners. He was fascinated about how Main avoided collapsing in chaos given its near complete lack of written policies and procedures that were the operational backbone of any prison at which Warden Biggins had worked. He soon realized that multiple officer cliques controlled and ran Main, and that each clique controlled a defined territory (such as a cell block, or the dining hall, or the yard), and each clique had a hierarchical social structure that commanded the loyalty of its members. The survival bonds that new officers formed with senior officers were embedded in these cliques. In exchange for loyalty and obedience, the cliques taught you how to do your job. A new officer without a clique had a slim chance of survival, and Main cliques resented the presence of female officers and did not trust them to do the job.

Sexual harassment is often used as a weapon and after being at Main a couple of weeks some female officers told Warden Biggie Biggins that Roxie McFadden was being sexually harassed by a Lieutenant. Roxie told the Lieutenant she wasn’t interested in a relationship with him, but the female officers said he was persistent.

Female officer: “I’m not surprised Roxie got the auditorium gate assignment.”

Warden Biggins: “What do you mean?”

Female officer: “Sometimes when a supervisor is pressing you for sex and you resist, you’ll get shit assignments until you put out.”

Warden Biggins: “Are you saying this is what happened to Roxie?”

Female officer: “I’m saying she was being pressed for sex. And I’m saying the auditorium gate is a scary, shitty, isolated assignment. That’s all I’m saying.”

Female officers also complained about being assaulted by prisoners, and that supervisors and administrators did nothing to stop these assaults, nor did their corrections officer union seek remedies. MDOC policy required that whenever an employee is assaulted by a prisoner a formal, written, critical incident report had to be completed by the shift commander and send up the chain-of-command, eventually to be reviewed in the MDOC Central Office. Warden Biggie Biggins searched for copies of these reports and found none. When he asked the Main Deputy Warden about the discrepancy between what the women officers were claiming and the dearth of reports, he said that he wasn’t going to process a critical incident report “every time a female officer got her tits or ass grabbed.” This was stated to Warden Biggins in the presence of a State Police Lieutenant conducting the criminal investigation. When asked about it later, during legal depositions, the Deputy Warden denied making the statement and the State Police Lieutenant said he had not heard the Deputy Warden say it. Warden Biggie Biggins knew both were lying because after the statement was made the Lieutenant and Warden Biggins left the Deputy Warden’s office and talked about why in the world the Deputy Warden would say such a thing knowing their roles. It was apparent that female officers were classed with weak prisoners in that they were seen useful as sexual prey and little else.

Warden Biggie Biggins put everything he found in his report to the DOC Director, including the Deputy Warden’s remark. Sometime later Warden Biggins was told that the angry Deputy Warden thought his remark should have been overlooked as a “professional courtesy… something Warden Biggins thought blithely ironic. His investigation complete, Warden Biggins went home tired of Main and tired of people in general.

Warden Biggins’ report answered how this tragedy took place and completed the investigatory task he was assigned, but it didn’t answer why Maurice did what he did. Warden Biggins read thousands of prisoner files containing third-party sanitized descriptions of what he knew where grizzly crimes, but rarely was he moved by what he read. He knew and worked with many murderers and rapists during his career, but this was the closest he ever got to murder and rape. Like Roxie, Warden Biggins was born into a working-class family so he knew I understood something of her cultural fears and aspirations, and understood Main’s all-male officer culture. What he did not understand was Maurice’s culture and how these cultures clashed.

When Warden Biggins spoke about the investigation and interest in Maurice’s motives with his staff back at his own prison, he most often got shrugged shoulders. The only motive some staff proposed was that Maurice did it for sex, but that didn’t seem sufficient. Why did he kill her? Maurice must have known he would get caught, and he’d do less additional time for rape than for murder. Hell, the way female officers were treated by staff in front of prisoners, a female could claim rape by a prisoner and not be taken seriously, or at best have a perfunctory investigation conducted. The victim would be lucky if a Critical Incident Report was filed. It didn’t make sense. Warden Biggie Biggins had to talk to Maurice.

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