The estate of Elliott Funkhouser filed a federal lawsuit against Delaware County, its Jail Oversight Board, and other employees of the county on Wednesday, alleging that the county’s negligent administration of the jail led to Funkhouser’s death in April of 2022.

Funkhouser, 54, was allegedly strangled by his cellmate, Shad Boccella. Boccella, who was 25-years old at the time, now faces murder charges.

The 25-page lawsuit alleges that prison authorities knew “that Mr. Boccella has a past history of violent tendencies.”

“It is believed…that there existed instructions and/or warnings relative to Mr. Boccella, that he was not to be housed with fellow inmates, due to his predilection for violence,” the lawsuit goes on to say.

The lawsuit asks for a jury trial and a judgment in favor of Funkhouser’s estate in excess of $150,000.

“The prison’s reckless disregard for inmate safety resulted in a death sentence imposed upon Mr. Funkhouser for a disorderly conduct charge,” said Michael LaRosa, the attorney representing Funkhouser’s estate.

The county declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Funkhouser’s alleged murder was the first major shock from the prison after the management had shifted from a private management company, GEO, back to the government just weeks before.

Since the county hired its current warden, Laura Williams, on January 31, 2022, Broad + Liberty has counted thirteen deaths at the facility. That tally is likely to differ from the county’s, given that the prison has begun a practice of trying to release inmates who might suffer a medical emergency in the prison, but are still alive when taken from the facility. By getting the inmate released from custody, that person is no longer technically the prison’s responsibility if they die later.

Another lawsuit could be in the works for the county as well regarding an inmate death.

Janet Owens, the mother of Andrew Little, told Broad + Liberty in February she was working with lawyers on a wrongful death lawsuit against the county. Little took his own life at the prison in June, 2022.

Meanwhile, the county is also facing a lawsuit filed two weeks ago by several former employees of the prison who say they were improperly fired from the facility during the management transition.

Unionized employees at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility reached a temporary contract with the county in October, but have since struggled to finalize anything further.

When some correctional officers and union representatives complained of collapsing morale and increasingly dangerous conditions at the prison in December, County Councilor Kevin Madden, who also chairs the Jail Oversight Board, dismissed the complaints as a bargaining tactic.

The GWHCF was one of the last privately run prisons in the commonwealth. Democrats in Delaware County campaigned on promises to deprivatize it, which they did in 2021 continuing on to the full management transition in April of 2022.

Since then, the operating costs have risen even as the prison population has declined.

Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at, or use his encrypted email at @shepherdreports

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