Pensacola mother fights for answers over her son’s death inside prison

Northwest Florida

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A Pensacola woman wants answers after her son was found dead in a Northwest Florida prison.  

It’s been almost three months since Justina James’ son died, and she says she was told originally it was a suicide, but she doesn’t believe that.  

“He told me that my son died, and it changed my life,” Justina said.

That life-changing call came on July 23, 2021. Justina was told her 25-year-old son, Malek Gordon, killed himself inside Santa Rosa Correctional Institution.  

“I miss everything about him,” she said. “I miss his smile. I miss his love. I miss his voice.”

Justina said she talked to Malek four days before he died. He only had two months left before he was released, and he was working on his GED.  

“He was so excited about coming home,” Justina said. “Starting a family with his fiancee. He was so excited about that. He was like ‘mom I’m gonna give you a whole bunch of grandchildren.’ I was like ‘hold on son,’ you know, but he always had a smile. He was so full of life and I hate that it was taken away from me.”

State officials will not comment on an ongoing investigation, and the Florida Department of Corrections website shows this case is still open and the manner of death is pending.

Justina isn’t getting any answers either, but she said she’s not giving up.

“As a mother, you’re the protector of your child naturally, so me not being able to speak with anyone, no one being able to tell me what happened to my baby… that’s the most hurtful and frustrating part I have to deal with… actual torture,” she said.

On her arm is a tattoo of Malek with his son, who also passed away.  

“This is Malek and my grandson Mylan,” she said. “I carry them with me and my grandson passed away last year on Fathers Day, so for this alleged suicide for my son… he didn’t kill himself when his son died. I know he wouldn’t kill himself two months before he was to be released.” 

There is a candlelight vigil planned to honor Malek this Sunday. It’ll be at Blue Wahoos Stadium at 6 p.m. Justina said the goal is to tell her son’s story and she hopes if someone knows anything about what happened inside the prison, they will come forward.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention, and crisis resources. Call 1-800-273-8255.

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