Never in a million years did I think I would be sitting behinds bars in a state prison interacting with some of Ohio’s notorious high profile murders, rapists, pedophiles, drug dealers, robbers, drug addicts, gang members, and snitches; but in 2012, that became a reality. A who’s who of individuals that you heard about on the news, read about in the papers or that T.V shows did reports about; they all seemed to have ended up in A.O.C.I. in protective custody.
Almost two years later — these same men who if I were told I would have to be confined with for more than 2 minutes, let alone 2 years, I might have taken my own life in fear that whatever heinous act that got them here — I might meet the same fate, but now I have no fear of. In fact, mostly I feel sorry for them because my mental strength and education out-matches whatever means they used to victimize others on the outside.
Most inmates I encountered abandoned the difficult path of study, self-discipline, and rehabilitation for the instant gratification of prison life that leads to the perpetuation of the street life that brought them here. In Protective Control Unit alone, my first year in East 2 housing block, I lived among “The Angel of Death”, “The Handcuff Rapist”, The 1-75 Murderer”, Matt Hoffman who murdered a family and stuffed them in a tree, and since then in West 2 housing block, “The Highway Shooter” and T.J. Lane “The School Shooter”.
For 6-plus months I celled with one of America’s most notorious serial killers — although now in his early 60’s this soft spoken, openly gay and unassuming man was once known as the “Angel of Death”. Donald Harvey still scares many of PC’s other inmates even though he’s a stroke survivor, and he moves a little slower than usual. His resume proceeds him, even after serving 25 years of a life sentence for murders associated with his work as an employed medical assistant at the local VA and hospitals in Northern Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio.
During a conversation we had, he mentioned he had 91 bodies to his name although he was convicted for less. It was nothing for him to describe how he poisoned neighbors and killed his roommates father. I never felt threatened by Donald, although initially when I was told he was going to be my cellmate, it was a concern. It was either take him as a “cellie” or take someone I didn’t know.
I actually had some interactions with Mr. Harvey when we were housed across the hall in E-2 Block. Now in W-2 Block, I was part of a group that was assigned to the old patient wing which consisted of much larger cells and hot water sinks in two cells on the hall. The highlight of these cells is that they are actually big enough to hold 4 men, but now since we occupied the unit, only 2 men can live in these cells now.
The greatest thing I liked about these cells was that both beds were on the floor and not stacked on top of one another, as the other cells were. I chose the bed next to the window and wall rather than be next to the door across from the toilet: Being able to sleep with my back to or facing the wall, and not having to be awaken by a grown man doing the number 1 or 2 at the toilet, or the door slamming shut by my head.
Harvey and I got along for the most part. He had his quirks, as I am sure I had some issues too, but for the most part it was a non-eventful cell relationship. Occasionally his southern mis-education clashed with my northern progressive learning when the political talk shows were on, but most of the time I was tortured by daytime soaps, the Home and Garden Channel (which had no sound), or primetime reality shows like Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor, or Big Brother.
Harvey was the avid fan, and I learned to watch Big Brother with Donald as if I had chosen to watch it myself. Eventually, I got my own TV and plugged in my headphones to watch what I wanted. He pretty much kept to himself and sat on his bunk watching television, reading a book or listening to music. He had a few friends that would write him on a regular basis and he would hear from his mother or talk to her on the phone. On the block, he would walk the yard with his walking partner and occasionally sit in the day room. For me, being the cellmate of the notorious “Angel of Death” was not so bad. But after 6 plus months, he moved in with “Jelly Roll” the “Handcuff Rapist” who was a former cellmate of his and I ended up with some knucklehead kid from Cleveland; What a change of pace.
I was released in the end of October 2014 and Donald was transferred to Toledo Correctional Institute after the fall out of the T.J. lane and others escape attempt. Protective Control inmates like Harvey with high profile cases and notoriety where sent to various Institutions across the state. A few stayed at Oakwood but it would never be the same again. Unfortunately for Harvey it would be his last move.
On March 30, 2017 Donald Harvey dubbed “The Angel of Death” was brutally beaten in his cell and died as results of his injuries at the age of 64. A tragic death for a serial killer whose fate was not believed to have come soon enough and who left this life with little fan fair unlike when he was on trial and first began his multiple life sentences. Arsenic and cyanide were his choice means to poison patients and other hideous means when he was a nurse’s aide from 1970 to 1987 when he was convicted.