By Eddie Burkhalter, Appleseed Researcher

Deandre Roney died June 9, 2024. He was one of four men at Donaldson prison who died over a three-day period in June (photo courtesy of his family).

Deandre Roney knew his life was in danger, so he asked officers at Donaldson Correctional Facility to move him, as did his family. A man had been chasing him with a knife for days, and had already stabbed him once, the blade breaking off inside of him, his family told Appleseed. 

Corrections staff assured the family that they would move Deandre to safety. He wasn’t. Instead, Deandre was stabbed in his back and in his head by a makeshift knife the following day. He died June 9 at UAB Hospital. Mr. Roney was scheduled to be released on Nov. 6, according to court records. 

Deandre was one of four men at Donaldson prison who died over a three-day period in June. One man died while in hospice care at the prison, and two others were found unresponsive and later died. 

“Friday night my brother called and asked if he could have someone come and get him out of that dorm, because he didn’t feel safe. He wanted to rest,” said Chante Roney, Deandre’s sister. Deandre’s mother called and spoke to an officer who told her he’d get her son moved, Ms. Roney said. 

“Saturday morning my brother called and asked if we contacted anyone there, because no one ever came,” Ms. Roney said. Within a few hours of that phone call her brother was stabbed.

The day of the stabbing the family got a call from another incarcerated man telling them they needed to call the prison and that something had happened to Deandre. They called and spoke to a lieutenant whom they said was “very rude” and said they’d have to call back on Monday,  Ms. Roney said. Later Saturday evening the prison’s warden called the family and confirmed that he was injured, but did not tell the family the serious extent of his injuries. 

“He said he was at UAB and he was stable, and for us to go over there and see him. He’s ready to be seen. Just prepare for the worst,” Ms. Roney said the warden told them. “But we were thinking maybe he was just injured real bad, not knowing he was already dead. They really just had him set up so we can come and view his body.” 

No correctional officers present

In the days after his death the family received calls from men in Donaldson prison who knew Deandre and what happened to him. Those men told the family that Deandre was looking for help that Saturday, but there were no officers in his dorm. Deandre walked toward the prison’s faith dorm where officers could usually be found, Ms. Roney said, but he never made it to safety. “This guy snuck behind him and killed him and left him outside,” Ms. Roney said.

Deandre Roney (photo courtesy of his family)

People who are nearing release can often become targets of violence in Alabama’s deadly prisons, where staffing is woefully under court-ordered staffing levels, and prisons are overpopulated and filled with drugs and weapons. Donaldson prison was at 150 percent capacity in April, the last month for which the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) has released a monthly statistical report

“He was reaching out, uneasy. He didn’t feel safe. He felt like something was going to happen before he made it home by November, and they failed him. They really failed him,” Ms. Roney said. 

The man who the family was told by others inside Donaldson prison killed Deandre is serving 30 years after pleading guilty to attempted murder and assault in the first degree in 2011. ADOC declined to say whether anyone has been charged with Deandre’s killing, and court records don’t indicate the man the family believes killed him has been charged in connection with the death. 

“There are no further updates to share at this point. The LESD investigation is active and ongoing,” an ADOC spokeswoman responded to Appleseed, referring to ADOC’s Law Enforcement Services Division. 

“We were saving money up for him to come home, to buy him clothes, because he’s been gone all these years,” Ms. Roney said. “He was coming home the first week of November, His birthday was at the end of November, and he didn’t even make it.” Instead of using that money to help her brother make a  life outside of prison, the family used it to bury him. 

150 days left to serve

Deandre’s handwritten motion for reinstatement of his probation, which goes into detail about telling his probation officer that he lost his job and was unable to pay his fines and fees.

Deandre pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and attempted murder in 2002 and 2003 respectively, and was sentenced to 20-years split sentence, to serve three years with five years of probation following his release. He was 16-years old at the time of the robbery, court records show. He remained in state custody until July 2007, but his probation was revoked by then-Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Gloria Bahakel in November 2008 after he missed one check-in with his probation officer and failed to pay his court-ordered fines and fees that month, court records show. He was remanded back to prison to serve out that original 20-year sentence. Deandre was 150 days shy of completing his sentence when he was killed. 

Ms. Roney plans to speak at an upcoming public hearing of the Joint Legislative Prison Oversight Committee meeting on July 24th. “I would love to speak on my brother’s behalf,” she told Appleseed. She won’t be alone that day in Montgomery. Tim Mathis, who’s son, Chase Mathis, died moments after he spoke to him by phone in Elmore Correctional Facility on June 4th, also plans to speak to those lawmakers. 

Ms. Roney wonders how long her brother remained there on that ground outside before other incarcerated men, not officers, came to his aide. 

“Inmates had to go out there and get my brother off of the ground and get him to the infirmary. He didn’t have a chance,” Ms. Roney said. 

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