Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- A Midlands man says his mentally ill nephew was treated worse than an animal inside a state prison and that is what led to his death.
"They just threw him away," said Arthur Laudman.
He says his 44-year-old nephew, Jerome Laudman, died after suffering through mistreatment and appalling conditions at the Lee County Correctional Facility.
"Very deplorable, it's just like, worse than an animal. It's very inhumane," he said.
Laudman says he communicated with his brother's son while he served time, through arranged phone calls and letters written on his nephew's behalf by staff.
Jerome Laudman suffered from bipolar disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, an intellectual disability and had a speech impediment, but his uncle says he thought everything was fine, even after he was notified of his nephew's death, which he initially believed was natural.
"There was no red flags. He had had a history of seizure activity and those kinds of problems. I didn't know that he wasn't receiving attention and medical care," he said.
Laudman did not find out about those conditions until work began on a class action lawsuit claiming abuses and mistreatment of mentally ill inmates within the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
He has now filed his own lawsuit, which claims his nephew spent 11 days in February 2008 in Lee Correctional's Supermax Unit, with no clothes, socks, blanket or sheets, during a time when the unit had no heat.
The suit says Jerome Laudman did not receive his medications, and remained in a cell with mounting trays of uneaten and decaying food, all leading up to him being found naked and unresponsive, facedown in feces, urine and vomit.
"That shouldn't be part of his punishment to say hey, you gonna lay back here and die in your own feces and starve to death. That's beyond punishment," he said.
Laudman say attempts from other inmates to get his nephew help went ignored, and Lee Correctional used inmates to clean up his nephew's cell before investigators arrived.
He says the state is trying to cover up what happened to Jerome, and how mentally ill inmates are treated.
"It shows me that they just absolutely do not care," said Laudman.
A spokesman for the Department of Corrections said the agency would not comment on pending litigation.