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ACI stabbing suspect had pattern of correctional officer attacks in 1970s

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — The 79-year-old man accused of stabbing a correctional officer at the ACI on Friday has attacked at least five correctional officers in the past, including one who died as a result of the attack, according to documents obtained by Eyewitness News.

John Carillo has been charged with multiple felonies for the alleged assault on correctional officer Jason Messier, who sustained a minor laceration on Friday after Carillo allegedly lunged at him with a makeshift knife at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston.

Carillo was already serving a life sentence for murdering correctional officer Donald Price back in 1973 at the ACI’s medium security facility that was later named for Price, but closed in 2011.

Court documents obtained by Eyewitness News from the Judicial Records Center show Price was not the first officer Carillo attacked at the ACI, nor did he stop the behavior after being convicted of murder.

The documents, which had to be retrieved from off-site storage because of their age, contain first-hand accounts from correctional officers, both handwritten and typed, about their clashes with Carillo in the 1970s.

Carillo’s criminal history dates back in to 1959 when he was 20 years old, but the first documented assault on a correctional officer appears to be 1971, when he was indicted for assaulting correctional officer Pasquale Solitro. An affidavit says Carillo struck Solitro in the face with a table lamp while other inmates were causing a disturbance.

He later pleaded guilty to the assault and was sentenced to three years in prison.

In 1973, Carillo was at the medium security facility when he murdered Donald Price in June, later to be convicted by a jury of first-degree murder. Two other inmates were charged with conspiring with him to do it.

According to documents from the case file, Price was found “lying on the floor near a desk from which he was keeping watch...suffering from several stab wounds and unable to respond to questions about the attack.”

All of the inmates in the “B dorm” were handcuffed and questioned by police, according to the documents, and police found a table knife that had been sharpened and appeared to have “wiped-off blood” on it.

An inmate pointed the finger at Carillo, telling police he heard screams for help and saw Carillo and another prisoner running from the scene. Police said they found blood on Carillo’s body, clothing and bedsheets. 

About two years into serving his life sentence for that murder, the documents say Carillo assaulted correctional officer William Tirocchi on September 6, 1975 while officers were bringing him for a shower.

“He came out and sucker punched me in the face and in the chest,” Tirocchi said in a statement to police at the time. Another officer came over to assist in restraining Carillo. “While he was being restrained inmate Carillo kicked me in the groin,” Tirocchi said.

Tirocchi also said Carillo threatened him, saying “I’ll kill you, you f***ing punk.”

Sixteen days after that incident, documents say Carillo went after officers again, this time throwing a container of urine at two officers who were walking by his cell.

The urine splashed the officers in the face, according to an affidavit, and officers tried to remove him from his cell. 

“Inmate Carillo was uncooperative from correctional officers, in that he refused to be removed from his cell,” the document reads. “Lt. Larochelle and Officer Erickson, when removing Carillo from his cell [were] kicked in the stomach and legs.”

Carillo later pleaded guilty to the assaults in 1978.

Eyewitness News asked the Department of Corrections why Carillo was still living in maximum security, instead of the higher-level High Security Center, despite his history of attacks on officers. Spokesperson J.R. Ventura said: "It’s not sound correctional practice, nor our policy, to keep an inmate in a High Security facility any longer than necessary to encourage good behavior."

Ventura said Carillo has been housed in High Security before, but was reclassified to maximum security in 2012. (The High Security Center did not open until 1981, after Carillo's string of attacks on COs in the 1970s.)

"He's a dangerous guy," Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers President Richard Ferruccio said on Tuesday after Carillo's arraignment for the latest alleged stabbing. "When someone kills a correctional officer and they're serving a life sentence, you pay attention to that individual when he's around because he has nothing to lose."

"We recognize that corrections is a dangerous job," Ventura said. "Our Officers are professionals whose training prepares them for that danger and it was that training and vigilance that made the difference and saved the officer’s life when he was attacked by Mr. Carillo."

At one point Carillo was sent to serve time in Massachusetts, but a spokesperson for the Massachusetts DOC says he assaulted a staff member there in 1999. More details about the incident were not immediately available, as the spokesperson said records would need to be retrieved from storage.

Back in Rhode Island, DOC inspector Frank Levesque said Carillo had been relatively well-behaved in his old age, with few disciplinary issues in recent years. He said he mainly spent his time exercising in the rec yard until last Friday, when he allegedly stabbed Messier in the chest.

Carillo was charged Tuesday with assault with a dangerous weapon, assault on a correctional officer, possession of a weapon other than a firearm and disorderly conduct.


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