1973 Riot At The West Virginia Penitentiary

Prison Settles Down To Routine Operation

Moundsville Daily Echo
March 24, 1973

Prison officials have reported that the prison population at the West Virginia Penitentiary has returned to its normal operation after the settlement of the uprising on Wednesday.

A few of the inmates, who are unidentified, have been confined to the maximum security while Sgt. Jess Higby of the Moundsville Barracks of the state police proceeds with the investigation into the death of one inmate and the stabbing of two others.

Acting Warden William Wallace announced Friday night that a number of National Guardsmen and some state police officers will remain at the institution for the next month while the investigation is underway.

No damage estimates have been released on the destruction of the education department and the athletic equipment, but it is expected to run into the thousands of dollars.

Father Bitter
Charleston, W. Va. (AP)

The stepfather of Willie Lee Hale, the inmate slain during this week's riot at the West Virginia Penitentiary, says he had to learn nearly everything about his son's death from the newspapers.

Charles Hale told The Associated Press Friday he is bitter because no state official has called him to offer condolences or explain the events surrounding the death of his 22-year-old stepson.

"I'm going to write the governor about it," said Hale. He said he was told of the death when "a state policeman came to the store the other night and told me."

Hale, a veteran employe of the G. C. Murphy Co. at Northfork, said he had to call three funeral homes in Moundsville before he located the one that had his son's body.

Hale said he blamed prison officials for his stepson's violent death. "I hold the warden responsible for my boy," he said.

The 22-year-old inmate had been hospitalized in the prison infirmary one year ago after being stabbed in the chest by another prisoner.

"The warden had to know Willie was in trouble," said his stepfather. "I think they should have taken him away from there."

Hale said his stepson was "kinda backward and slow" and theorized that prison officials may have used the youth to find out what was going on in the century-old facility.

A prison official who asked not to be identified said during the disturbance that Hale was disliked by both blacks and whites at the prison because he had a reputation of talking too much.

The slain inmate was black.

"They should have moved Willie out of there, even out of the state", if necessary, Hale said. "They say he was a 'rat.' I don't know about that, but I do know that he would do what you asked him to do and if you asked him something he would tell you the truth."

Hale was serving a life term with mercy on a charge of murder. He had served four years of a minimum 10-year term.

Hale said he would bring his stepson back to McDowell County for burial. The young inmate also is survived by two brothers and a grandmother.

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