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The whole system just went against him

A WEEK BEFORE Kenneth Keith Kallenbach died, the Delaware County comedian's health had deteriorated so badly that prison officials tried to send him home on "compassionate release."

A WEEK BEFORE Kenneth Keith Kallenbach died, the Delaware County comedian's health had deteriorated so badly that prison officials tried to send him home on "compassionate release."

Kallenbach, 39, a longtime member of Howard Stern's "Wack Pack" who suffered from cystic fibrosis, was rapidly shedding weight while jailed on a parole violation.

Even the Upper Chichester cop who arrested him in March for allegedly trying to lure a teenage girl into a car was shocked by his gaunt appearance at his preliminary hearing April 15.

"He looked bad," Officer Michael Smalarz recalled last week. "I said, 'Kenny, man, you're really losing weight.' "

He was dying.

But despite the mid-April request that Kallenbach be released - a practice reserved for seriously ill, nonviolent inmates - the county probation office insisted that he stay in jail until he could undergo a psychosexual evaluation, according to John Reilly Jr., acting superintendent at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility.

Delaware County Adult Probation and Parole Services refused to send Kallenbach home, Reilly said, even though he was being held on a parole violation from a prior DUI arrest - not on the attempted-kidnapping charge involving a minor. Kallenbach's mother, Fay, already had posted bail on that charge.

It wasn't until the morning of April 24 that a county judge agreed to rescind the warrant on the parole violation.

Kallenbach had died a few hours earlier at Riddle Memorial Hospital.

"It was just too late," said Fay Kallenbach, who intends to sue the prison for failing to treat her son's cystic fibrosis, a chronic condition in which abnormally thick mucus builds up in the lungs and digestive system.

A painful memory

He died more than two months ago, but his mother still has trouble holding back the tears when she recalls her final moments with her son in the hospital's intensive-care unit.

"He tried to open his eyes, and his eyes rolled back in his head and he never regained consciousness," she said. "All I saw was skin and bones. He had lost so much weight, he just looked emaciated. I held his hand for a while and talked to him. Evidently, his brain was working but his body had shut down."

Reilly declined comment yesterday because of the pending litigation, but in an interview shortly after the death he defended Kallenbach's treatment.

He said that Kallenbach was seen twice a day by a nurse and had access to "all of his prescribed" medication and an oxygen machine, but that he had been refusing treatment.

An April 30 autopsy performed by Delaware County Medical Examiner Frederic Hellman did not immediately reveal a cause of death, and the tissue-analysis results have not come back.

Hellman initially had declined to conduct an autopsy, accepting the determination by hospital clinicians that Kallenbach had died from pneumonia and septic shock due to complications from cystic fibrosis. But he decided to perform the examination after the family raised concerns about his medical treatment. At that point, Kallenbach's body already had been embalmed

"We're in America," Fay Kallenbach said. "He shouldn't be dying in jail from pneumonia when they knew he had cystic fibrosis."

Kallenbach posted $5,000 bail shortly after her son's March 17 arrest on charges of harassment and attempted luring of a child.

He was returned to prison custody a week later, however, because the arrest, and the fact that he had been driving a car without a breath-alcohol ignition interlock device, violated his parole on an old DUI charge, Reilly said.

"He called me, and he was so weak I could hardly understand him," Fay Kallenbach said. "He said, 'Mom, do whatever you can, please, to get me out of here because I don't think I'm going to make it.' "

She blames the prison for her son's death, claiming that the medical staff failed to treat his cystic fibrosis, but says that the probation officials who kept him there are "equally responsible." She said he had managed the chronic ailment by taking enzymes to help digest his meals and by using a salt-water breathing machine at their Boothwyn home.

Awaiting information

The family's attorney, Harold I. Goodman, said that he is awaiting additional records before deciding whether to sue the county and the GEO Group, a Florida-based firm that runs the prison. Goodman said that he has notified both entities that his firm is investigating the matter.

GEO spokesman Pablo Paez declined to comment on the case. Reilly said a deputy warden called the county probation department around April 17 and asked if Kallenbach could be released due to medical reasons while he awaited a hearing on the parole violation. The prison occasionally contacts judges, prosecutors or probation officers to request "alternative incarceration" for nonviolent inmates who are "gravely or seriously ill," Reilly said in April.

The practice - which also saves money because the publicly funded prison is no longer responsible for expensive medical care - typically is used for inmates such as Kallenbach jailed on a probation or parole violation, rather than convicts serving time, Reilly said. The request was denied, according to Reilly. Fay Kallenbach still can't understand that.

If a judge had set bail at 10 percent of $50,000 on the more-serious criminal charges and determined that Kallenbach was not a danger to the community, why wouldn't the probation department let him out on house arrest when he became sick?

"The whole system just went against him," she said.

Mark Murray, the deputy director of Delaware County Adult Probation and Parole Services, who Reilly said had blocked Kallenbach's release, declined to comment on the case.

Kallenbach - known for his cheesy rock songs, goofball antics on "The Howard Stern Show" and the occasional movie cameo - was a notoriously heavy drinker, but didn't have a history of violent crimes or sex crimes, Upper Chichester Police Detective John Montgomery said.

"He was picked up a couple times for intoxication and stuff like that, but he wasn't viewed as a dangerous criminal or anything - not until this latest incident, which raised eyebrows," Montgomery said.

Police say Kallenbach tried to pull a teenage girl into his car on March 17. At his preliminary hearing, Magisterial District Judge David Griffin held him for trial on all charges, including attempted kidnapping. The case never made it to trial.

Fay Kallenbach said that her son was driving to the post office that afternoon and yelled to a 16-year-old girl, " 'Hi, I'm Kenneth Keith,' because everyone knew him in Boothwyn from TV commercials and appearances. He was just friendly that way and would hand out his little business card he had."

She says that county officials treated her son as if he were guilty of a sex crime by insisting on a psychosexual evaluation while he was dying in jail.

"He was accused of it, but he didn't have his day in court," she said. "He was never convicted."