Saturday, January 20, 2018
Public safety

Man beaten in Pinellas jail transport van has died

A Treasure Island man beaten by another detainee inside a Pinellas jail transport van in July died Thursday morning, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

On July 6, Thomas Morrow, 59, was picked up and put in protective custody under the state Marchman Act. That same night, Leonard David Lanni, now 37, was picked up on a charge of disorderly conduct. Both men were drunk when they were put in the van.

A few miles from the jail, the driver, an officer with the private security company G4S Secure Solutions, under contract with the Sheriff's Office, glanced at the live monitor that displays the passenger compartment of the van and noticed that Morrow had fallen from the bench. Moments later, Lanni began to kick him.

The driver pulled into a parking lot and asked two deputies to restrain Lanni.

Lanni, of St. Pete Beach, was originally charged with aggravated battery in connection with Morrow's beating. Last month, the charge was upgraded to second-degree attempted murder.

Now that Morrow has died, charges will be amended to murder, pending the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office review, the Sheriff's Office said. Lanni remains in the Pinellas County jail.

After the beating, Morrow was hospitalized in the intensive care unit of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. He sustained a ruptured spleen, a collapsed lung and extensive head injuries, deputies said. An arrest affidavit showed he also had fractured ribs and cuts. He was bedridden and unable to walk or talk.

Last month he was transferred to Kindred Hospital in St. Petersburg, a long-term care facility, when his condition did not improve, said Michael Babboni, his family's attorney.

"This was a tragedy that could and should have been prevented," Babboni said. "His body was failing and he couldn't fight anymore."

On Wednesday, Morrow's wife of 35 years, Sharon, visited him. Afterward, she went to Babboni's office and told him her husband appeared more ill.

About 6 a.m. Thursday, doctors called Sharon and said her husband had died.

The Morrows, who were high school sweethearts, moved to Florida from Long Island about 25 years ago. They had a daughter, who is in college. Morrow was an electrician at the Tampa Convention Center who loved kayaking and fishing. He hoped to go skydiving for his 60th birthday on Oct. 4, his wife said in July.

The medical examiner's office will conduct an autopsy.

The Sheriff's Office review of the incident is continuing.

Laura C. Morel can be reached at (727) 445-4157 or [email protected]

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