Vineland Man Who Died By Suicide In Prison Had Been 'Begging' For Help, Attorney Says

A 24-year-old Vineland man died last week in prison, and his family's attorney said his death was avoidable had he gotten the mental health treatment he'd been requesting.

Phillip John Frascella II

Phillip John Frascella II

Photo Credit: With family permission

Phillip John Frascella II, 24, died by suicide on March 13 at the Northern State Prison in Newark, according to his family's attorney, Jennifer Torsiello Cassett.

"We are looking into the circumstances surrounding this tragedy, but we do not have the prison file or surveillance video yet," Cassett said. "What we do know is that Northern State Prison is a dangerous place, and this is not the first time this particular prison has let this happen."

The state Department of Corrections (DOC) said: "We cannot comment at this time on Mr. Frascella's medical details or treatment. All deaths of incarcerated persons while in the custody of the Department are reviewed by the Attorney General's Office, the local Prosecutor's Office and NJDOC’s Special Investigations Division. All such deaths receive a complete and thorough investigation, whether independently by SID or in partnership with other offices."

"The Department has robust mental health services to ensure that incarcerated persons receive the necessary care," DOC added.

Frascella was arrested in 2018, a year after graduating from Vineland High School, when he forced his way into a local home wearing a mask, police said at the time. Once inside, Frascella pulled out a knife and demanded to know the location of the homeowner's jewelry, police said.

The victim pushed her Life Alert button, startling Frascella, police said. He ran off and was arrested the following day.

Frascella's obituary remembers him for his big smile, noting he "loved nothing more than sharing a good laugh with his loved ones and others.

"He was intelligent, ambitious, loyal, funny, and handsome. He loved to be loved by others and that wasn't hard because of his charismatic personality. Phil was creative, an artist, and a talented writer. He was an avid music listener and spent a lot of time making and listening to music."

According to Cassett, Frascella had been "repeatedly denied" the mental health treatment he'd been "begging for" in prison.

"No person, especially a 24-year-old young man, should die in the custody and control of our prison systems that have 24/7 video monitoring and guards that are supposed to be doing their jobs monitoring the prisoners," the attorney said. "This was completely avoidable."

Click here to view Phillip J. Frascella's obituary.

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