Kentucky inmate died after large mower overturned on him


The death of an inmate at a federal prison in Kentucky this week happened when a large lawn mower turned over on top of him in a pond, according to a coroner.

John Arthur, 55, of Pulaski County, was serving a 15-month sentence for disability fraud at the prison in McCreary County, called USP McCreary.

Arthur had reported to prison July 30.

Pulaski County Coroner Clyde Strunk said prison officials told him Arthur had been using a zero-turn mower to cut grass at the facility.

Strunk said he was told that as Arthur mowed on an embankment, the mower flipped over into a pond, trapping Arthur underneath the machine.

Strunk ordered an autopsy but the results were not available Wednesday morning, so he had not officially ruled on the cause of Arthur’s death.

However, Strunk told the Herald-leader Arthur likely died as a result of positional asphyxia, meaning he could not breathe because of the position he was in under the mower.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release that Arthur was found unresponsive about noon Monday.

The agency did not say how Arthur got hurt.

Prison staffers called an ambulance to take Arthur to Lake Cumberland Regional Medical Center in Somerset. There is no hospital in McCreary County.

Strunk met the ambulance at the emergency room and pronounced Arthur dead there.

The McCreary prison houses mostly maximum-security inmates, but also has a small minimum-security camp. Arthur was housed in the camp.

Arthur, who operated heavy equipment and had a tree-trimming business, applied for federal disability payments in 2005, claiming he was blind and unable to work.

Arthur later had surgery that improved his sight, but did not notify Social Security officials, according to a court record.

Federal officials charged that Arthur received 118 disability checks between January 2006 and late 2015 even though he was able to work, as well as benefit checks related to this two children.

Arthur had employers write checks to his wife to hide the fact he could work.

Arthur and his wife, Sherri, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting receipt of stolen money.

A judge placed Sherri Arthur on probation and ordered the couple to repay $166,583 to the Social Security Administration.

John Arthur had been active in a Baptist church in rural Pulaski County, serving as a deacon and Sunday School teacher, and had helped disaster victims through the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief Ministry.

Sherri Arthur said in a statement issued through attorney Brenda Popplewell that John Arthur enjoyed helping people and was loved and respected by his family, church and friends.

“Our family is devastated and we are in shock and disbelief over John’s death,” Sherri Arthur said.