Sketchy Death at the County Jail

11 Dec

Terry Edwards, an inmate since November 27 at the Jefferson County Jail, died in the early hours of November 29, according to news reports. The county medical examiner said the preliminary cause was a perforated ulcer.

Edwards, 38 and with four kids,  was arrested by St. Louis County officers on Nov. 24 on suspicion of possessing drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest by flight. During the arrest, officers used “a minor use of force” (oh really?). They transferred him to JeffCo on the 27th. Edwards’ cell mate tells the Leader what happened:

Dan Cox of House Springs, a prisoner who said he was taken into custody because of back child support, said he joined Edwards in his cell about 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 28, Thanksgiving Day. Edwards said he was not feeling well, and he called on the intercom at about 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. and told jail officials he was sick, and that he felt like he was going to faint, Cox said. “They asked if he wanted an Ibuprofen and told him to talk to the nurse in the morning,” Cox said. Cox, who had been released from custody by Tuesday, said he discovered Edwards dead in his cell at about 4 a.m. Nov. 29 and that he notified jail officials.
In another story, Cox said Edwards asked for help “six or seven times.” This doesn’t sound good for the county at all; it looks like the kind of thing that could lead to a large award from a court. On its face it seems quite callous and negligent. Sure, inmates have been known to lie, but this guy clearly wasn’t. Edwards’ mom wants answers:
“He said his head was hurting and his jaw was stiff,” Susan Stetina said. “My son did not have any serious medical problems until he was arrested.”

Another family was looking for answers last year. In June, 24-year-old Bradley Kingery died at the jail two hours after being arrested. He had been taken in for outstanding traffic-related warrants. His family held a protest outside the jail shortly after the incident. The Sheriff’s Office promised to investigate and announce the death, but as far as I have seen, no cause of death has been announced in this case. I have made some inquiries, so maybe we can learn something.

What is noteworthy here is that both of these individuals were arrested for very minor offenses, and they hadn’t been convicted of anything. Some of us could find ourselves arrested under similar circumstances. We shouldn’t have to fear that, if we or a loved one are admitted to the county jail, we will come out feet first. And the sheriff has not been very forthcoming, or apparently even concerned, about these two cases. Inmates are not the most popular of our local residents, but they have rights, too, and their families deserve answers. If the sheriff doesn’t want to be proactive and provide them, we have to demand them. In the Edwards case, the medical examiner said results may take a month. The sheriff’s office seems to hope we will forget about this incident during that time, as everyone apparently did with Kingery. But we need to remember.

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