An Ohio State Highway Patrol Officer contacted Gayle Witherspoon June 4, telling her that her cousin, Larry Bumphus, was assaulted in prison and she should contact the warden at Allen Correctional, a state prison in Lima.
When she did, the warden, Melvin Jones, told her Bumphus was assaulted about two weeks prior and doctors at a Columbus hospital were "getting ready to pull the plug" on life support systems keeping him alive.
By the time she reached Columbus that same day, Bumphus was dead.
"He told me, 'we think we know what happened,' but he never said what that was," Witherspoon said.
Since then, prison officials haven't told Gayle Witherspoon, of Sandusky, or Patricial Perrault, of Gary, Ind., anything about what happened to Bumphus.
"I had to fight all day to just see his body," said Witherspoon.
Bumphus had a severe injury to his head, she said, but otherwise Witherspoon, a first cousin of Bumphus on his father's side, and Perrault, a first cousin from his mother's side, haven't been given any further information.
Now all they want to do is bring him home and bury him.
Bumphus was convicted in 2001 of raping a woman, but he always denied he sexually assaulted the victim.
"He always said he was innocent, and I believed him," Witherspoon said. "He was offered a three-year prison sentence but he wouldn't take it, and he was still fighting his conviction."
State prison officials have not responded to a request from the Register seeking more information about Bumphus' death.
Jones, the warden, did not return a telephone message left for him on Monday, and prison officials have not responded to a public records request sent last week to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction seeking reports on the assault that occurred.
Initially, prison officials said Bumphus' body would be transported back to Sandusky for burial, but they later said it would cost $600 for the body to be transported.
The women are attempting to raise $2,100 for the transport and funeral and are seeking donations from people who knew Bumphus.
Donations can be made to the Toft Funeral Home, 2001 Columbus Ave, Sandusky, to help defray the costs.