Man serving life sentence for Stanly homicide commits suicide

ALBEMARLE — Pliney R. Purser, 63, a prisoner at the Scotland Correctional Institution, has died in an apparent suicide, according to a North Carolina Department of Public Safety statement. Purser was serving a life sentence after a 2008 second-degree murder conviction in Stanly County. 

“He was found unresponsive in his cell around 9:35 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3,” the statement said. “The prison’s first responders performed lifesaving measures until local paramedics arrived who also worked to resuscitate the offender.” 

Local paramedics then took Purser to an outside medical facility where, just after noon on Dec. 6, he was pronounced dead.  

“Law enforcement was notified of the death and is investigating, as is common in these circumstances,” DPS said, adding that they are “cooperating fully in the investigation” and are also conducting an investigation of their own apart from law enforcement. 

Before receiving a life sentence in 2008 for the second-degree homicide, Purser was declared a habitual felon for a long string of crimes going back to a 1979 second-degree kidnapping conviction in Union County that earned him a five years sentence. In the 1980s and 90s, he had several breaking-and-entering and larceny charges. 

The second-degree murder offense was committed in conjunction with an attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon, which he was also convicted of.  

Suicide in North Carolina’s jails has been on the rise in recent years, according to Disability Rights NC, a group who tracks mental health issues in the state’s prisons. DRNC data said nine people committed suicide in N.C. jails in 2017, 12 in 2018 and 20 in 2019, which they say is a record for the state. 

DRNC says 41% of jail deaths in N.C. are by suicide, but 60% of those suicides are by people, unlike Purser, who had been in jail 12 days or fewer.