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Inmate sues state over razor attack at Purdy prison

A convicted identity thief blames the state for allowing a convicted murderer to slash her face with a razor at the Washington Corrections Center for Women near Purdy.

In a lawsuit filed last week in Pierce County Superior Court, Wynona Cooper, 60, contends prison officials did not do enough to keep her safe from Kathryn Sue Williams, 39.

Cooper seeks an unspecified monetary amount for “psychological damages and physical injury,” according to the lawsuit, filed on her behalf by attorney Lance Hester.

Melissa Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, said the agency would not answer questions about the litigation.

“It’s an ongoing lawsuit, and we can’t offer any comment,” Johnson said Tuesday.

The state Attorney General’s Office, which will defend the state, did not reply to a request for comment.

At the time of the attack, Cooper was serving a nearly five-year sentence for using a stolen credit card to buy food at a Tacoma restaurant; Williams was serving a 25-year term for killing her mother in Kent and dismembering the body.

They were cellmates in 2013 and apparently got into a fight in the summer of that year, court records show. Both were placed in segregation after the fight and later returned to different cells in the same pod, CCU East.

Cooper repeatedly asked to be moved to the CCU West pod because she feared Williams, according to her suit. Instead, prison officials decided to move Williams and told her so on Oct. 23, 2013, the lawsuit states.

Williams was not happy about moving and blamed Cooper, according to the suit.

Williams later that day attacked Cooper when they were outside their cells. She slashed at Cooper with a makeshift knife made of a small razor blade attached to a pencil eraser with rubber bands.

It took 24 stitches to close Cooper’s wounds, court records show.

Williams was convicted of first-degree assault in the case and sentenced to an additional 14 years, court records show.

“The defendant did make a statement to a Department of Corrections official indicating that she attacked the victim because previously she had to move pods and the victim did not,” records in the criminal case show.

Deputy prosecutor Hugh Birgenheier noted in charging papers that there were reports Cooper, who is black, had been antagonizing Williams, who is white, with racial slurs “to have the defendant attack the victim so the victim could bring a lawsuit against the state of Washington.”

Hester said this week his client denies making such a statement.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644

adam.lynn@thenewstribune.com

@TNTAdam

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