Randy Tarver's headstone reads "husband and father." The statement is compelling yet simple, but there was nothing simple about how Tarvar died.
Tarver was in the work release program at the El Dorado State Prison in October of 1998. He was serving time for cocaine possession. On the day he died, Tarver was mowing grass on a slope in El Dorado's North Main Park. According to court testimony, the mower slid down the slop and then began to flip. Tarver was pinned under the mower in Walnut River. He drowned in less than a foot of water.
His widow Sonya says people from the prison told her they were sorry about her husband's unfortunate accident and they would begin an investigation to find out what went wrong. Sonya says that investigation turned into a prison cover up. She has filed a $1.8 million lawsuit for the wrongful death of her husband. The lawsuit claims Tarver was left unsupervised and says the city and prison failed to properly train the supervisor.
In court, officials say Tarvar was left alone. Sonya says they now say Tarvar contributed to his own death. She believes if someone was supervising Tarvar when the accident happened they could have saved him.
This lawsuit has raised questions about how the prison runs its work release program. Prison officials admit convicted murderers are in the program and prisoners have been left alone for up to thirty minutes. No one from the city or prison would comment about the case.