A Franklin Correctional Institution inmate has been charged in the
death of another.
On Feb. 6, 2020, James Knudsen was sentenced in Okaloosa
County for one year, seven months and 18 days in the state penitentiary for
possession of a controlled substance, and battery.
About five months short of when he expected to go home, on
April 23, 2021, the 32-year-old prisoner was found dead.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Knudsen was found unresponsive in his bunk, around 1 a.m. and pronounced dead by Franklin County Emergency Medical Services
about an hour later.
On August 11, FCI inmate Alexander Rodriguez, also 32, was arrested in
connection with the death on a charge of negligent manslaughter. He had earlier
been housed at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution and was two years into a seven-year
stint for carjacking and aggravated fleeing of a law officer, out of Broward
The probable cause affidavit says Sgt. Elton Moore, the first
FCI staff member to determine Knudsen needed medical attention, found the
inmate vomited on himself with blood present. All interviewees provided
consistent statements advising CPR was continuously given to Knudsen with the
assistance of (a defibrillator) but he never became responsive. Knudsen was
also provided multiple doses of Narcan because it was believed, at the time,
that he may be overdosing on some type of narcotic, reads the affidavit.
An inspector with the Florida Department of Corrections Inspector
General’s Office said he saw no outward signs of trauma other than the results
of various actions taken for medical purposes on Knudsens body. In the affidavit, it was noted that a yellowish discoloration was observed on the back of (his)
Two inmates, in separate statements, told officials Rodriguez had hit Knudsen, knocking him out and causing him to fall and hit the
back of his head on the concrete floor.
Both inmates stated Rodriguez then placed Knudsen in
his bunk, reads the affidavit. Both inmates advised that Rodriguez hit
Knudsen because Knudsen had thrown drug paraphernalia under Rodriguez’ bunk
During his interview, the report says Rodriguez implied that
Knudsen had been smoking drugs all day and had a bad reaction. Rodriguez also
indicated that Knudsen had hit his head on the bed railing.
FDLE agents interviewed 77 inmates who were reportedly in
the dorm when the alleged incident occurred, and all but three said they saw
nothing. However, two others provided statements describing what happened
similarly to what the first two inmates had said.
A review of what the report termed video of low quality,
could not identify any faces of inmates. However, the video does show two
inmates appearing to have a confrontation in the area of Knudsen’s and
Rodriguez’ bunk area, it reads. It also shows one inmate, on multiple
occasions, go over to the area of the bunk where Knudsen was found to be in
medical distress. Based on other correlations, FCI confirmed that it was Rodriguez’ bunk.
Rodriguez declined to provide any additional statements to the investigation. On
June 14, the report of an autopsy by the District 2 medical examiner’s office,
determined the cause of death was traumatic brain injury due to blunt head
trauma,” specifically describing it as a homicide.
The toxicology report said
Knudsen’s blood was positive for naloxone, a medicine that rapidly reverses an
opioid overdose, but did not positively identify any other substance.
The medical examiners officer also stated the underside
of the left jawline has a 1 1/2-inch area of faint purple discoloration.
Incising the skin reveals underlying soft tissue hemorrhage, reads the affidavit.
Rodriguez now faces a second-degree felony, which if
convicted, could land him another 15 years in prison.