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Ashley Smith couldn’t explain attempts to choke herself, prison officer testifies

Ashley Smith could never come up with “a good answer” to explain her penchant for tying ligatures around her neck, according to an officer who built up a rapport with the 19-year-old inmate.

Melissa Mueller, who was on duty at Kitchener’s Grand Valley Institution for Women the day Smith died, testified that when she warned Smith her habit could kill her, Smith replied: “I’m not going to die, I know what I’m doing.”

Mueller also testified about an incident in June 2007, the first time she saw Smith’s face change colour from a ligature tied around her neck.

“The very first time I saw her face, I was stunned,” she told Jocelyn Speyer, the coroner’s lawyer. “It was purple and blue but she was still fighting us.”

Mueller said she got along well with Smith, despite the fact that she sometimes acted immaturely.

“She could be really funny, but she could definitely test your nerves,” she said.

Mueller testified that she was sometimes able to get Smith to listen to her by talking to her. But Smith also routinely ignored commands, which resulted in official written disciplinary charges of disobeying a direct order.

Mueller later admitted the written charges did little to alter Smith’s behaviour, but that she still wrote up the disciplinary reports, partially because it was her job, and partially because she hoped it would, at some point, encourage Smith to change.

The reports Mueller wrote regarding Smith’s behaviour included a time when Smith tricked a nurse into believing she had taken a pill.

Smith also gave another inmate tips on how to get on the officers’ nerves. Mueller said Smith recommended her fellow inmate “rub s— all over the walls, that will get them going.”