An Ashley County inmate was among the three prisoners found dead in a single day period at the Varner Unit, a high-security state prison in Lincoln County.

Jim DePriest, a spokesperson with the Varner Unit, said that Edward Morris, 34, of Ashley County was found unresponsive in his single man cell and was later declared dead.

Morris was found within hours of two other inmates in separate locations in the prison.

“All three of the inmates were declared at the unit; none of the inmates were taken to a hospital,” DuPriest said.

The other two inmates — Marlon Miles and Stephen Kantzer — were from Pulaski County.

Miles, like Morris, was being held in the Varner Supermax Unit. DePriest said all three inmates were located in the same prison complex, but were in two separate units. Kantzer was in the regular unit in barracks.

“I’m not sure if a warden found him or if the inmates brought the warden’s attention to it,” DePriest said.

Immediately after the men were declared dead, the Arkansas State Police were contacted to investigate.

Officials won’t have any more information until the autopsies are returned and the causes of death are determined.

“Anything I say at this point about a cause of death would just be speculation,” DePriest said.

DePriest said that the drug K2, a form of synthetic marijuana, had been an increasing problem in the prison.

“It’s not speculation to say that we have a problem with K2 and other drugs; we definitely have a problem with K2,” DePriest said.

DePriest said he wasn’t looking at the exact numbers, but believes that the unit has had somewhere around 17 deaths over the last year related to K2.

The case is being investigated by the Arkansas State Police.

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