Crime

Beaten Pasco prisoner awakens from coma

A Pasco man who lost his left eye after a brutal beating -- allegedly at the hands of his prison cellmate -- has awakened from a coma and is talking and eating, a family member said.

The progress made by Scott William McDonald in the last few days is miraculous, said his sister, Laurie Ingram of Pasco.

McDonald, 45, has been at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for weeks, recovering from injuries he suffered in late June during the attack at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell.

His cellmate, Kenneth Smith, 32, allegedly beat him with a smudge pot that was placed inside a pillow case. Smudge pots are used in some religious ceremonies.

McDonald has undergone a handful of surgeries, including insertion of plates into his face and head and reconstruction of his left eye socket. He wasn't able to speak or eat on his own and it was unclear whether he would recover.

The Pasco man underwent surgery again last week, this time on his sinuses and eye area to protect him from infection, Ingram said. On Sunday, the tube that was helping him breathe was removed, she added.

He's since started to talk and eat.

Ingram said her family is grateful for the help McDonald has received and for the care shown by his medical team.

The next hurdle is to find him a place where he can continue recovering after he is discharged from Harborview, she said.

Barbara Curtis, an administrator with the state Department of Corrections, said she's working with the hospital and the family to find a facility under the DOC's extraordinary medical placement policy.

Under the policy, offenders who meet certain requirements -- including having a serious enough medical condition and enough family or community support -- may be placed outside the prison system. The idea is to minimize costs to the state.

High-risk offenders -- such as those sentenced to death or life without parole -- aren't eligible.

McDonald was sentenced in 2007 to eight years in prison for attempted first-degree robbery and another four years and three months for second-degree escape. He got good behavior credit while in prison.

Offenders who are placed outside a prison are watched over as if they're on community supervision, Curtis said. If their medical condition changes, the placement is re-evaluated.

Ingram said her family wants McDonald to be placed in the Tri-City area. Her father even has appealed to the governor.

If a facility is found, the placement must be approved by the secretary of the Department of Corrections or a designee. If one can't be found, McDonald could go to a prison infirmary in the state.

McDonald was found unconscious and bleeding in his cell the morning of June 29, according to reports. The investigation into the incident was handled by Connell police.

Smith, the cellmate who allegedly beat McDonald, is serving 26 years on three counts of assault out of Snohomish County.

Franklin County Prosecutor Steve Lowe said he's waiting to decide about charges in the Coyote Ridge incident until he receives follow-up information from officers, such as McDonald's medical records.

Ingram said her family has been at McDonald's side as often as possible during his hospitalization. It's been a difficult month since he was hurt, she said.

"(His progress) is a miracle. But he's still on a long road to recovery," she said.

-- Reporter Kristin M. Kraemer contributed to this report.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1402; sschilling@tricityherald.com

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