Murderous ingenuity and a short fuse: Inmate kills other inmate with toilet paper in Florida jail
Toilet paper. When I think of it, images of bathrooms, flushing, those stupid Charmin Bears (how I hate the Charmin Bears), and of course pee and poop come to my mind. But murder? No … not until now. This week, an inmate at Florida’s Pinellas County Jail confessed to murdering his cell mate by stuffing wet toilet paper down the cell mate’s throat and then strangling him.
Kelly Harding, 48, was found unconscious in the cell he and Greenberg were sharing this Sunday morning, and was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. The medical examiner found what Sheriff Robert Gualtieri called two three-ounce “containers” of toilet paper from Harding’s throat. (Maybe jail toilet paper comes in MRE-type packages now; who knows what “containers” means?) It seems that Harding got on Greenberg’s nerves quickly, because Harding and Greenberg had only been sharing space in Protective Custody for a few hours when Greenberg murdered him.
Both men were frequent flyers of the Florida penal system. According to Gualtieri, Harding was what we might refer to as an asshole. Harding had a history of attempting to assault jail guards, spitting on people, and using racial epithets and slurs. At the time of his murder, Harding had been incarcerated for a year due to a burglary charge, and this was not his first rodeo: his arrest record included charges of felonious weapon possession, cocaine possession, and carrying a concealed firearm. Likewise, Greenberg’s rap sheet covered an array of offenses: failing to return leased property, aggravated battery, cocaine possession, attacking an EMT, domestic violence, and the “intentional homicide violence” murder of his girlfriend 26 year-old Jennifer Zale in 2012, which Greenberg claims happened during consensual erotic asphyxia-related sex.
According to the sheriff, this is the first murder of an inmate committed by another inmate to occur in the Pinellas County Jail. It is not, however, the first jail-related death involving toilet paper to be reported. Nor is it the first homicide involving toilet paper to be recorded! Pauline Saint-Martin, M.D., wrote an article in 2012 for The Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine about toilet paper-related deaths. While the main thread of her paper was about one elderly woman’s murder through toilet paper suffocation, she mentioned two suicides involving the intentional ingestion of toilet paper, and one of them occurred in a jail. The suicide in question is discussed in article by Anny Sauvageau from 2006. A prison inmate diagnosed with schizophrenia was found dead in his cell after shoving large amounts of toilet paper down his own throat. Making the case even weirder is the fact that he had enough prescribed medication to successfully—and peacefully—overdose in his cell with him, and yet he chose such a violent end.
Greenberg is now being held in his own cell and awaiting trial for both murders. I tried to think of a witty ending to this report about making him use baby wipes, but nothing came to mind.