MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — An Oregon State Penitentiary inmate found dead in his cell last week was strangled and a cellmate with multiple murders on his record is the suspect, the state police said.
Joseph Akins, a 45-year-old convicted murderer, was found dead Saturday at the Salem prison. Cellmate Craig Bjork was immediately placed in a segregation unit at the prison, but he was not publicly named as the suspect until Wednesday.
State police say criminal charges against the 53-year-old Bjork will be determined by the Marion County District Attorney’s Office when the investigation is over and the case is ready for a grand jury.
Bjork, 53, has been in the Oregon prison since January, when he transferred from Minnesota on an interstate compact.
In Minnesota, Bjork was convicted in the murders of his two young sons in 1982, his girlfriend and a Minneapolis prostitute. According to court records, Bjork was harassed in prison during the 1980s for being a child killer and was transferred from Minnesota to a Montana prison. He was returned to Minnesota following an escape attempt.
According to court records, on Thanksgiving Day 1997, in a kitchen area, Bjork used a plumber’s pipe to murder fellow inmate Edwin Curry, a 41-year-old convicted sex offender who was due to be released the following year.
Curry’s relatives filed a lawsuit against Minnesota prison officials, contending that no reasonable official would allow a “known psychopath” who had threatened to commit mass murder to work alone with another inmate in an unsupervised area with access to weapons. The family lost the lawsuit.
“He confessed to first-degree murder, in a lot of states that’s the death penalty,” Harold Curry, the victim’s 81 year-old father, said in a phone interview Wednesday from Stewartville, Minn.
“Minnesota ain’t got the death penalty. And now that (expletive) has killed another person.”
Four of the 37 inmates on Oregon’s death row are there because their aggravated murder convictions involve the killing of an inmate, according to a recent Salem Statesman Journal article. That includes Gary Haugen, whose much-publicized request to die was blocked by Gov. John Kitzhaber and the Oregon Supreme Court. Kitzhaber has said no inmate will be put to death as long as he’s governor.
Akins was convicted in 2007 of murder in the death of Susan Rae Hosler, a woman who was kidnapped from a restaurant parking lot southeast of Portland in 1994.
A Department of Corrections official declined to say why Bjork was transferred to Oregon and why he was placed in a cell with another inmate. Anita Nelson, the agency’s public records and research manager, said she couldn’t talk about Bjork because of the criminal investigation and an administrative review.
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