“They covered up my dad’s death, and they got away with it”


Daughter of man who died one year ago in jail custody speaks out

January 27, 2016

As has come to light, Matthew McCain is not the only person to have died while in custody at the Durham jail in the past year or so. According to the Herald-Sun, the sheriff’s department has said two people died in the jail in 2015. We have not heard anything about one of these deaths. However the facts surrounding the death of Dennis McMurray last January are as sickening as what happened to Matthew McCain last week.

According to his daughter, Shakiyla Y., Dennis McMurray, 52, was in great distress while incarcerated. He was calling for help, saying he couldn’t breathe, yet no officer came to help him—just like with Matthew McCain. She knows this because people incarcerated with her dad saw him in distress and told her mother later. She also knows from her uncle—who spoke to Dennis on the phone after he was arrested—that her dad had complained to jail staff late Friday about breathing difficulties, and that he was given pain medicine and returned to his cell. No one in Dennis McMurray’s family heard from him again.


Shakiyla was told her father died on Monday, January 12, 2015, but she really doesn’t know anything for sure because she never got a report from the Durham County Sheriff’s Office, even after repeatedly trying to get one from DCSO’s Investigator Cox. All Shakiyla does know is her dad was arrested on Friday, January 9, 2015, and by the following Monday at the latest, he was dead. After getting a call from her uncle on Monday saying that someone from the Sheriff’s Office had come by his place and told him Dennis was dead, Shakiyla went immediately to the jail. But when she tried to find out what happened, she was told by jail staff they didn’t know what had happened, that someone saw him collapse on the floor and jail staff tried but weren’t able to resuscitate him.

Later on, when she went back to the jail to get his belongings, she was told those couldn’t be given to her because his death was “still under investigation.” She says when they told her that, she asked to see video footage of her dad in his cell. She knows she has the right to see this footage, but jail staff said she wouldn’t be able to get the footage. So she went to the Sheriff’s office in the Durham County Justice Center and asked for the autopsy report—why was her father dead? She was told the investigator was not in, and each time she returned she was told the same thing.. She left voice messages that were not returned.. To this day, she has never received a written report detailing the circumstances of her father’s death.

In the raw, emotional time right after her father died and Shakiyla knew she was getting the runaround from the Sheriff’s office, she reached out to a news outlet to tell her story. An ABC-11 reporter interviewed her at length in the shadow of the justice center. “They wasted my time,” she says. After taping the interview, the reporter called her back, telling her, “We’re not going to run the story.” The reporter didn’t give a reason, and news of Dennis McMurray’s death was never made public by anyone. The ABC-11 news reporter who interviewed Shakiyla was Tamara Gibbs, who now works for the Durham County Sheriff’s Office as the public information officer.

Shakiyla says that after the news turned her down, she continued to get thwarted by the sheriff’s investigators, but she didn’t know where else she could go. Then she saw the story about Matthew McCain’s death. Some of the circumstances sounded too similar to what she had heard from eyewitnesses to her father’s death.

“I want the public to know that Matthew wasn’t the only one this happened to,” Shakiyla says. “They covered up my dad’s death, and they got away with it for a long time.”

She goes on: “Every time I tried to find out any information they gave me the run around. All I want is for this to be known and some justice for my dad!”

2 thoughts on ““They covered up my dad’s death, and they got away with it”

  1. Pingback: Durham Hits the Streets Against Jail Deaths | Durham Anti-Repression Committee

  2. Pingback: “They All Need to be Kicked in the Ass” | Amplify Voices Inside

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