PORTLAND — An Oregon inmate has been charged with aggravated murder in the nearly 2-year-old slaying of a fellow prisoner, according to court records.
Terry Lapich, 32, was indicted late last week and has yet to be arraigned or provided a public defender. He previously was identified as the suspect in killing of Michael Hagen, who died at a Boise hospital in February 2012 after being found unconscious at the Snake River Correctional Institution.
Hagen’s widow, Tiffany Hagen, has informed the state she plans to file a lawsuit. She said prison officials ignored her husband’s request for protection from cellmates who allegedly threatened to kill Hagen if he did not pay rent.
“We are disheartened to see how long it has taken to get an indictment,” her attorney, Dennis Steinman, said Monday.
Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris and an assistant district attorney did not return phone calls Monday seeking comment.
Norris told The Associated Press a couple weeks ago that the Hagen case was taking a long time because the death penalty is an option and the investigation must be thorough.
“This has always been our policy, and it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a prison case or any other case where capital punishment is one of the options,” he said.
Charges also have yet to be filed in two Oregon prison murders from this summer in which a suspect quickly was identified.
At Snake River, the state Department of Corrections says a 23-year-old inmate died after he was assaulted by a fellow prisoner. The suspect was placed in a disciplinary segregation unit for an investigation that has lasted nearly five months.
In Salem, the Marion County District Attorney’s Office has yet to file charges in the August death of an inmate at the Oregon State Penitentiary.
Deputy district attorney Paige Clarkson said the penalty phase makes that case complex. And the suspect already is behind bars, so waiting to file charges presents no safety risk to the public.
“There’s no reason to rush to any charging decision,” Clarkson said. “Because there is a death penalty possibility here, we want to make sure we’re gathering as much information as possible.”
Steinman, the attorney representing Hagen’s widow, said they have been waiting for the criminal case to advance before filing their lawsuit. Notice provided to the state of a potential claim said Hagen fought back in October 2011 because he wanted to be sent to a segregation unit, or “the hole,” for safety reasons. He was killed shortly after being released from the hole.