Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Zephyrhills prison inmate dies after beating

ZEPHYRHILLS — When his family tried to visit him at the state prison in Raiford years ago, Joe Hayes refused to see them.

Soon afterward, he sent them a letter.

"He said it was a dangerous place," recalled his younger sister, Michaele Hayes. "He said don't attempt to visit."

Last month, while incarcerated at Zephyrhills Correctional Institution, Joe Hayes, 54, suffered multiple injuries and was taken to Lakeland Regional Hospital, where he died April 21.

The Polk County Medical Examiner classified the case as a homicide and said Hayes died of multiple injuries caused by blunt force trauma. The Florida Department of Corrections has been tight-lipped about the circumstances surrounding his death. Spokeswoman Ann Howard didn't confirm a death had occurred, only that there was an internal investigation at the prison.

"When it is complete, we will release whatever qualifies as public record," she said.

Michaele Hayes said the agency has told the family little about what happened.

"They were very vague," she said. She said she asked what would happen to an inmate that would "do something like this."

"They just said it depends on the investigation," she said.

Michaele Hayes said staff at Peel Funeral Home in the Panhandle town of Bonifay, where Hayes is set to be buried today, reported that one of her brother's ears was black and swollen and noticed bruising on his face and arm.

She said she's saddened but not really surprised. During the 31 years her brother has been incarcerated, he's been beaten numerous times, she said. At one point, she contacted Amnesty International and the Red Cross.

Records show Hayes, whose occupation was listed as a hospital orderly, was serving a 99-year prison term for a series of burglaries and rapes that occurred in 1980 in Charlotte County. Police reports on those crimes were not available this week, as officials said the cases were too old.

Michaele Hayes described her brother as "smart" and said he was fluent in German and Latin. After earning a nursing degree, he accompanied a group of nurses on a mission trip to Africa, she said.

When she visited him once, before he was in prison, he had a pet kitten and took her on nature walks.

"He knew the names of the all the leaves and the trees," she said.

The last time authorities investigated an inmate killing at the Zephyrhills prison, it was ruled justifiable homicide. In 2010, 68-year-old Augutus King died after his cell mate, James Hugger, 52, gripped him in a headlock after King took a swing at him.

The reason for the altercation? A dispute over a towel.

Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Zephyrhills prison inmate dies after beating 05/03/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 3, 2012 8:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Reschedule, regroup, recharge: Ways to spend the weekend after Irma


    Well, it's safe to say some of your recent weekend plans got disrupted.

  2. Pasco School Board suggests moving slowly with Ridgewood High


    LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County School Board members appeared Tuesday to put the brakes on an aggressive plan to transform Ridgewood High School into a technical education campus by next fall, suggesting that even if it is a good idea, slowing down will make it better.

    Pasco School Board member Steve Luikart, right, discusses options for Ridgewood High School as board member Alison Crumbley looks on. [Photo by Jeffrey S. Solochek]
  3. Worker fixing cable line in Feather Sound after Hurricane Irma dies after fall from ladder

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — A 53-year-old worker repairing a cable line in the Feather Sound area on Saturday fell from his ladder and died, the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office said.

  4. 5 things under $5 Sept. 21-27: Snooty memorial, free Glazer Museum, actor Jackie Cruz, Talk Like a Pirate Day


    1 Remembering Snooty: This public memorial was postponed by Hurricane Irma, but on Sunday the community gets a chance to honor Snooty, the beloved 69-year-old manatee at Bradenton's South Florida Museum. The museum will be open to the public for free for a day of remembrance from noon to 5 p.m. 201 10th St. W, …

    7/15/2011 - Bradenton, FL - Snooty, the worlds oldest manatee on record, will celebrate his 63rd birthday on Saturday, at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton. Staff Photo by JIM HOCKETT
  5. 'Raging Bull' boxer Jake LaMotta dies at 95


    Jake LaMotta, the former champion boxer whose life was immortalized by Robert DeNiro in the 1980 film Raging Bull, died Tuesday at age 95.

    Jake LaMotta and his fiance Denise arrive for the world premier of the critically acclaimed boxing drama "Ring Of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story" at the Beekman Theater in New York in 2005. LaMotta, whose life was depicted in the film "Raging Bull," died Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, at a Miami-area hospital from complications of pneumonia. He was 95. [Associated Press]