Daughter of man who died in jail custody in 2015 still wants answers.
Medical Examiner’s Reports Point to Inaction and Incompetence by Jail Staff in Dennis McMurray’s death
In the days after the death of Matthew McCain last month, we found out about the death of two men in Durham County Jail in 2015. Although we still know nothing about the circumstances of Raphael Bennett’s death this past August, we know quite a bit about the death of Dennis McMurray in jail custody in January 2015. Although his daughter, Shakiyla Young, tried to get answers and media coverage at the time of her father’s death, she was rebuffed. She initially got out her story here, but she’s ready to tell more and make some demands on the sheriff’s office. We also include here the autopsy and toxicology reports from the state chief medical examiner’s office, along with some very basic questions that call to account the jail staff for its utter incompetence in preserving human life.
The biggest, most glaring and horrifying fact is the complete lack of accountability and follow up by people in the sheriff’s office, which continues to this day. Here are some basic facts Shakiyla wants to share:
- More than a year later, she still does not have her father’s belongings which were taken during his arrest.
- Dennis was arrested in the home he lived in with his brother (Shakiyla does not know if they had a warrant) by Durham County Sheriff’s deputies. After arresting him, he made sure they had a key to lock up, but they did not secure the dwelling. In fact, they left everything open. Either cops went through stuff or other people came in, but in any case, Shakiyla’s uncle’s things were also taken from the house. This included his wallet and social security card. He never got this back, and, with no regard for the difficulty or cost of replacement, was told he would ‘just need to get a new one.’
Dennis also had some money saved. This was taken from the house, also.
- Shakiyla has spoken with and heard about eyewitnesses describe her dad screaming that he couldn’t breathe. Jail staff brought him to medical, and gave him something (ibuprofen? anti-nausea medicine?). He then went back to his cell. He still couldn’t breathe. It got worse. He collapsed and died.
She wants to know: “What did they give him in medical, and why couldn’t they have done something for him?”
- She also wonders if it is protocol to bring a person arrested in a drug bust (in this case heroin possession) to the hospital to see if they might have ingested drugs.
- Shakiyla requested video footage from her father’s cell in the days after his death. Major Julian Couch, head of detention security, who has told IOA people “I run this jail the way I want to run it,” told her flatly ‘we don’t have the footage.’
When she pushed the issue, Shakiyla was told to visit the investigator who was investigating the death, an Investigator Cox, who worked in the Justice Center in the sheriff’s department offices there. Every time she went to visit, she was told he was ‘not there.’ She also called multiple times, and her calls were never returned. She wants to know: “Why were my phone calls never returned by Investigator Cox? He was supposed to tell me what led to my dad dying, but instead I got nothing.”
She has records of her visits to the investigator’s office and calls she made and other things she did along the way, but doesn’t have access to the records right now. She’ll be glad to make them available when she does.
Shakiyla Young wants the world to know: Dennis McMurray was a great dad and grandfather. Her older daughter loved spending time with him and loved him so much. Shakiyla found out on the day her dad died that she was pregnant with her second child. He never found out he was going to be a granddad again. Regardless of his lifestyle, and of the fact that he had spent 9 years in prison, he was never out of his daughter’s life, he was always there for her, and he had become a huge part of his granddaughter’s life. Although he had been in prison for 9 years, he had been out for a year and been completely healthy before he got arrested and died the next day.
Shakiyla is still very angry about her dad’s passing. She feels she gets mad much faster these days than she used to. She feels her dad’s life was stolen from her, for nothing, and she has gotten nothing from the sheriff’s department. She says of the sheriff and the top jail administrators: “They all need to be kicked in the ass…”
To reiterate and make it plain, Shakiyla wants answers to the following questions:
-Did the DCSO have a warrant to enter her dad’s house?
-Why did they leave the house unsecured and open?
-Where are her dad’s belongings, and when will she get them?
-What medicine did staff give her father when he complained of not being able to breathe?
-Why didn’t they do more? They can’t blame him for ingesting drugs, and absolve themselves for not doing anything. And, what does it say about the ‘justice system’ that a person might go to the length of ingesting drugs to keep from doing time, to keep taking his granddaughter to the park?
-Where is the video footage from the day he died/ his time in the jail?
-Why did the investigator never return her calls? Why did she never receive a report about her father’s death?
Her story has been put out there, by Inside-Outside Alliance, and several media sources, and the sheriff’s department has not had the decency to contact her.
Also, attached here are the official state autopsy and toxicology reports, along with the report of investigation from the state medical examiner’s office. In looking at them, echoing some of Shakiyla’s, concerns, some basic questions absolutely beg asking:
The report states that he died of an overdose of fentanyl. Why did they not recognize the symptoms of an overdose? Fentanyl is absorbed relatively slowly when swallowed. This is important because it is not like they didn’t have time to react, he didn’t show up and OD right away. He had time for the symptoms to develop, there was time to notice and intervene. The symptoms of such an overdose are recognizable and should be anticipated as a distinct possibility given the charges they made against Dennis McMurray, plus, as the medical examiner’s investigation report notes, when he was brought to the infirmary, he told them he had swallowed heroin on the day of his arrest (see page 4 of investigation report). What was the “evaluation” by medical staff? When the sergeant and medical technician came to his cell at 1336 hours (1:36 p.m.) on 1/10/15 why were they going to give him anti-nausea medications? The report notes the attempt to resuscitate, but does not note that absent a chemical such as naloxone to reverse the overdose, he was not going to start breathing again.
Let’s be blunt: Is it always fucking amateur hour at the Durham County Detention Facility? Do detention officers and Correct Care Solutions have even the slightest idea what they’re doing? Sheriff Andrews has stated his commitment to the safety of jail detainees is “unwavering” but such a proclamation seems a cruel joke with the facts of Dennis McMurray’s and Matthew McCain’s deaths on the table.