First is his AZ Republic Guestbook, where his friends and family have been leaving messages for him since he died. Jessie loved and was loved by a good many folks. There are a few recent entries because it would have been his birthday September 1. These are the secondary victims of incarceration who never get counted - prisoners' families and communities. Here's a sample:
August 31, 2010
"Jessie you always reminded me of dad. your laugh just like his and now your with him and pappi.i wish i could have seen you one last time.to hug you and to tell you how much i loved you.and i want to let you know you will never be forgotten you will always be remembered love always your lil sister crystal a.k.a.tutu"
I remember you as a little boy always eager to read and learn. You were at my house doing your homework when I lived on 27th lane. I had gone to the drug store across your mom house and you wanted to come to my house. You were in the 6th grade and was going to Sutton school. That little boys who had dreams of being a teacher. You liked school so much then. After Tata's passing I found your report card in papers nana saved. You had made HONOR ROLL the whole year!!! I told Gloria I'm going to keep it and then I told her, no I am going to mail it to him.
Love Tia Nena
The most pressing thing I found, however, is troubling, but shouldn't be discounted or ignored. It's a comment that was buried at the bottom of the Phoenix New Times article that covered Jesse's death. It seemed important to the discussion we've been having about prisoner safety to bring to the surface, where it can be more easily assessed. The allegations appear to be made by someone who knew Jesse pretty well and has the details on how this relationship unfolded in prison.
Here's an excerpt about the circumstances surrounding Jesus Cota's death (from "karma belief"). I do hope this is being investigated thoroughly:
"...I am hoping to bring attention to this matter, but more than likely this will go ignored or set aside. Below you will find an email I sent to several departments within the AZ DOC. The only response received from DOC is that Warden Larson retired as of 01/08/2010. They couldn't even reply that this was under investigation and they could not comment.
No one has bothered to question the fact that he was assaulted by Officer Apodaca (there were witnesses). Or how odd it is that as soon as SMU learned of the relationship he began with a former guard, he is suddenly found dead and they call it a suicide. Sure it may have been, but with all of the other information, why are there no further questions being asked? What if this had been your son, brother, father, or anyone else important to you? When a person called down there to check on him after he had been trying to reach them that day, why didn't the guard check on him? If he had been having issues earlier, and the person called, why were they told to call back on Monday and ask someone else? Had that guard got up and looked into this, this never would have happened...
How unfortunate yet another inmate has been able to succeed with possibly having committed suicide. What exactly are my tax dollars covering in these facilities? Obviously not education and training...
Let me get to the point. The death notification and news articles state that an investigation is under way. Are you going to do a proper investigation and start from the beginning? Are you going to take this back to the Lewis complex where Jessie was assaulted BY A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER for getting involved with one of the other officers? Where the assault took place AFTER she QUIT her job to be with him? And while DURING the assault, the guard made it clear as to why he was beating Jessie?
Are you going to go back to Lewis where SSU got involved after she quit and started doing everything they could to cut him off from recreation, where things as simple as a TV were taken from him, where he was cut off from mail, phones, and other family before they shipped him off to SMU? Are you going to look into why he was not being given his mail because the officers at Lewis took it upon themselves to share the letters and pictures he was sent? Again all of this happening AFTER she QUIT working there. They cut him off from the world during the same time his brother and grandfather passed away. During the same time his own children were experiencing hardships in life and he couldn't even contact them.
You may be thinking what this has to do with suicide and SMU... Are you going to look into officers being advised on 01/10/2010 that Jessie was not doing well and needed either attention or supervision? Are you going to look into him being pulled out of his cell for a brief time and then sent right back, all the while no one taking into consideration just how serious his mental state may have been. Why wasn't he placed on watch?
Are you going to look into why there are two versions of how he was found? One states he was found in his cell and the other claims he ran through the door and jumped when it was opened. Do all of your guards open a door and then stand to the side to allow an inmate such freedom of movement? And once again Jessie had been cut off from his family because someone let them know at SMU he had become involved with woman that had QUIT her job at Lewis to be with him. Did she mean that much to all of you?
Are you all satisfied that you not only broke him but cost him his life? And was whatever you were told worth a life? But let me guess, this will go nowhere because anyone that overheard or saw something will be too afraid to come forward. They will be afraid of either being assaulted themselves or losing time with their families. And once again, DOC employees will say either he was just an inmate or had been in trouble so it was to be expected. "
Anyone who wants to help me fill in some of the blanks about Jessie's life and death, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-580-6807. - Peggy Plews