Of course they saw the blood. There was blood everywhere. And they saw no blood? There was so much blood you could fucking smell it. And the killers had time to mop it up. And nobody saw a bloody thing. Susan Mongeon, mother to Donald James Mongeon, a throwaway in life, and so far, in death.
By Gary Dimmock February 14, 2011
January, 16, 1999: They were on him like crows. The prison guards, three men who are good at sticking to a story, were posted 50 steps from where, on this day, a Saturday, the killers came with a shank and an ice pick, and first torture, and then murder, on their minds. They shoved him into his cell, D18, on the upper tier off the catwalk just up the stairs and to the left. I’ve stood in that prison cell and when the bars swing shut your world falls in seconds flat. The prison guards who now sit behind desks for a living will tell you that Unit One has plenty of natural light but really the only view from this cell is a look down past the bars and through a window, and even then you’re looking at a patch of dirt, and there’s nothing natural about it. They make shanks from kitchen tools, toilet seats and whatever else prisoners can fashion into a homemade knife. They are a resourceful lot, and in most cases, it’s not hard to outwit a prison guard, at least not one assigned to Unit One at Collins Bay Penitentiary. They don’t worry too much about hiding their shanks from guards because the guards only bother searching after they’ve been thrust into someone’s gut, or worse, heart. That’s if they bother. Now they’re coming for Donald James Mongeon, just 27 and months away from making parole on his first federal bit. In his mind, he’s already on the bus home to starting over with his girlfriend. His only worry is if he’s having cheeseburgers or steak for his first meal out of prison with only an old shoebox in his hand. Everything he owned fit in that shoebox — a ballcap, books and some clothes. But he’s not on the bus, and now, still on Unit One, they came for him in cold blood. Donald fought through life and wasn’t about to stop now. They put panic buttons in the cells for prisoners who don’t fight. Donald fought back fast and hard, and that panic button was within reach, but it might as well have been a world away. Twenty-seven and fit from summers of keeping the city’s grass trimmed and nights of running from cops. Jesus, the kid had 29 convictions across his 27 years and so he ran from cops more often than he cut grass for the city. They make prisons for kids like Donald. He started out banging his head on the kitchen floor, then his head against cell walls in jails, and in between, his own mother, then finally in prison for all the times he held up clerks who work graveyard shifts at gas stations. Some men work the graveyard shifts to spare themselves the tired routines humans keep about the weather and celebrity gossip. So when one of them storms the late-night gas station with a knife, or worse, a gun, in their hand, the clerk is sufficiently rattled and promptly compelled to hand over the cash and smokes. Donald’s younger brother worked at an all-night gas station, and Donald had cased it but never robbed it. There were enough other places to hold up. EVERYONE on Unit One knew there was a killing in the wind. December 16, 1999 was unusually quiet for Unit One, the loudest, most unruly block on the prison. They shoved him back into that lonely prison cell, and he put his arms up and did what he could do. They had him. They tortured that white boy, one of three in a mostly black unit the keepers called the zoo. Walking down the strip one day, a guard told me these fucking guys have more rights than guys out on the street. Problem with prison guards is that it takes them 10 years to figure out that they too are in prison, for eight hours a day, five days a week and some shifts are at night when their children are being read bedtime stories about contraptions by Dr. Seuss. Unit One was the worst block in Collins Bay Penitentiary. It’s called The Bay and from the outside it looks like Disneyland with its red-roofed castle atop the old Victorian workhouse walls. Only inside, it was more zoo and less family theme park. And in broad daylight they came for him and weren’t leaving until he was good and dead. First the torture. And bits of your torso don’t belong on the floor of a prison cell, but on this day, a Saturday afternoon, they were. They finished hacked at him more than 25 times, including a fatal knife wound to the heart. Still, that wasn’t good enough. They had ransacked his cell, its walls spattered in blood. They tossed the place and still it was not enough. They wrapped a garbage bag around his head and shoved him under the bunk, where lay in a pool of blood undetected by guards for six hours after the 11 o’clock lockup. The killers even had enough time to mop up some of the blood on the floor, and literally got away with murder. The guards all said it was another normal night on Unit One. They all claimed they did their hourly checks and didn’t hear, see or report anything wrong. And when the finally got around to reporting it the next morning, they called it in as a suicide of all things. -30- @crimegarden