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Lawsuit: Department of Corrections ignored red flags

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was obvious for years that something was wrong with Keith Kosirog.

The former Rio Rancho diesel mechanic and family man who had served his country honorably as a Marine seemed to unspool steadily, strangely, dangerously in the last seven years of his life.

Court records show that he was diagnosed with a variety of maladies, including post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, delusional disorder, possible schizoaffective disorder and traumatic brain injury, substance abuse and suicidal ideation, admitting to clinicians that he had tried to kill himself at least 14 times.

A sister had committed suicide; another had tried. The family had a history of bipolar disorder.

Keith Kosirog

Kosirog’s own childhood had been marred early on when at age 4 he became Missouri’s youngest witness in a murder trial, testifying through tears about how he saw his father shoot his mother and another man in 1982 and was left alone with the bodies for hours until his older siblings came home from school.

In his 30s, he was hospitalized repeatedly, often on suicide watch. Various combinations of potent narcotics were prescribed. Safety plans were devised.

Nothing worked.

In 2013, his wife of 4½ years filed for divorce, claiming in court records that he was abusive to her and dangerous to their two young sons.

Now alone, he began posting rambling, rant-filled Facebook posts and YouTube videos, many in which he babbled incomprehensible conspiracies involving terrorists and religion.

Court records show he was arrested several times on charges of stalking and harassment against his former in-laws, leaving them bags filled with a bizarre assortment of items – a Chicago Cubs shot glass, pig-pattern socks, a chess board, a bandage scrawled with a fake quote from singer Taylor Swift stating that his former father-in-law was a creep.

The bags also included threatening messages written on pages torn from a Bible or an address book.

Questions of Kosirog’s competency were raised, then dismissed.

Nothing stopped him.

In 2016, he randomly showed up at a house in Tucumcari and proceeded to rip apart doors, framing, stucco and an air conditioner, because he believed the home was infested with terrorists, according to a criminal complaint.

Court records show he was placed on a pre-prosecution diversion program in Quay County, all the while racking up more criminal charges from Rio Rancho to Oshkosh, Wis., and sending repeated threatening calls to prosecutors and police, insisting that he wanted to die either by his own hand or suicide by cop.

In July 2018, the diversion program was terminated and Kosirog, 39, was jailed in Quay County.

For reasons never fully reported in court records, a judge in Tucumcari ordered that Kosirog be transported to the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas for “safekeeping.”

Kosirog arrived at the prison Aug. 4, and, four months later, he was dead in a solitary confinement cell, a makeshift noose of yellow fabric around his neck.

He had likely been dead for hours before anyone found him.

It was Dec. 2, the same day another inmate was also found dead hanging in his cell, according to news reports.

Despite all the signs, all the history, all the red flags, the suicide attempts, the family history of mental illness and even a diagnostic intake interview at the prison determining that Kosirog “requires one-on-one watch,” nothing at the correctional facility was done to save him.

That’s the contention of a wrongful death lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of Kosirog’s two sons and their mother.

The lawsuit, filed in the First Judicial Court in Santa Fe, names numerous defendants, most significantly the state Department of Corrections, the correctional facility and various employees and Centurion Correctional Healthcare of New Mexico, contracted to provide the state’s prison medical services since May 2016 and the subject of numerous lawsuits alleging improper care and wrongful death.

“What we’ve seen is upsetting,” said Parrish Collins, whose law firm has filed many of those lawsuits, including the one on behalf of the Kosirog family in conjunction with a separate law firm.

“The medical care provided inmates in the cases we see is sub-par, to put it gently. New Mexico in general has not taken much interest in mental health care, and then you have tragedies like this.”

Representatives for Centurion could not be reached. Requests for comment from the Corrections Department were not answered.

It will take time for the lawsuit to wind its way through the judicial system. In the meantime, Collins said he is hopeful that with a new Legislature and a new administration, attention will finally be paid to the troubling problems with the medical and mental health care provided to inmates – because inmates are eventually released.

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, jkrueger@abqjournal.com or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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