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Mother of teen who killed grandparents sues Indiana County prison over his suicide

| Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, 9:42 p.m.

The mother of a 15-year-old Venango County boy who committed suicide in 2014 at the State Correctional Institution at Pine Grove while serving a 35- to 80-year sentence for killing his grandparents has filed a federal civil lawsuit against prison officials.

Karen Kapp, the mother of Zachary Proper, who admitted shooting and killing his grandparents near Oil City in 2012, alleges in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh that she repeatedly warned prison officials and his doctors at the Indiana County facility that the teen wasn't taking his prescribed medications and could commit suicide.

Proper was found dead in his prison cell Sept. 8, 2014.

Prison officials said Proper hanged himself using a sheet. He was found during a security check of the housing unit just before midnight, prison officials reported at the time.

Proper pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in Venango County on Aug. 26, 2013, according to online court records. He later agreed to a plea deal, pleading guilty on both counts of third-degree murder, and was ordered to serve consecutive sentences.

According to news reports, the shootings took place about 4 p.m. Oct. 7, 2012, in Sandycreek Township, outside Oil City, after Proper became angered at his grandparents, George and Dorothy Fross, for calling his mother a derogatory name.

Kapp alleges in the lawsuit that her son's constitutional right prohibiting the federal government from imposing cruel and unusual punishment was violated because the prison employees did not take action to make sure Proper took his psychiatric medications and attended his scheduled doctor appointments.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel and SCI Pinegrove Superintendent Eric Bush are among the defendants in the lawsuit.

Proper had been incarcerated at SCI Pine Grove since Jan. 16, 2014. Prison officials said Proper's suicide was the first at that prison since it opened in 2001.

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