…and the Sheriff’s office is not responsible? Really? Ok, let me run that by again. I must have missed something. Uh, three inmates died in the McLennan County Jail…in just one years time, and it’s not the responsibility of the Sheriff’s Department… I’m still not getting it, so I suppose we’ll have to look deeper into this to see just why the McLennan County Sheriff’s department isn’t responsible for three deaths in their jail. I guess we had better start with the first death.
On October 6, 2014, a 37 year old woman named Iretha Lilly was in District Court for sentencing on a prior charge. The judge ordered her jailed for 100 days because she tested positive for drugs (meth & pot). Ok, I’m following it so far. Then, she got testy in the courtroom and caused a ruckus…quite a ruckus it seems, since it took several deputies and a Stun Gun to settle her down. Now, let me explain something about “squad rated” stun guns. “Squad” is the term used to identify military and law enforcement rated weapons.
These stuns guns aren’t the little rascals you buy at the local flea market to put in your purse. These suckers pack a 50,000 to 1,000,000 volt whallop. Honey, that will disrupt the nervous system of an elephant! (exaggeration intended) This is what deputies hit Ms. Lilly with. And off we go to jail to get booked in. Booking, by the way, can take up to several hours, even if you have frequent flyer miles. According to department records, Ms. Lilly had not been a visitor since 1995. The account then reads, “She was booked into county jail Monday afternoon and several hours later began complaining that she didn’t feel well.” Jail doctors did two, (count em’) two ekg’s and pronounced her fit.
Now, last I heard, an ekg suggests there were chest pains. In fact, some reports say it was definitely chest pains. If someone reported chest pains, and had been popped with over 50,000 volts of electricity, wouldn’t that tell you to immediately transport the individual to the hospital? And doctors were concerned enough to do two ekg’s, so they obviously thought something was out of order. Instead, Ms. Lilly was returned to her cell where, around 9:30-10 PM, she was found “unresponsive.” Now, that finally prompted someone to send her to the hospital…too late…because she was pronounced dead at 10:14 PM.
The Texas Rangers launched an investigation, which eventually led to a Grand Jury clearing the Sheriff’s Department of wrong doing. The death was ruled accidental due to coronary artery disease and complications from drug use. Ok, but would she even have died if she was taken to the hospital when the chest pains first started? We keep hearing that she was high on drugs that fateful day, but guess what kiddies? Nobody high on meth or pot would have even been functional in a court room. Gotta wonder what was swept under the table…
Now, we fast forward to November 1, 2015 when Michael Martinez was found dead in his cell at the same County Jail. The JP ruled the death a suicide by hanging. Problem is, only one of the reports say Martinez was actually found “hanging” in his cell. They simply report him as found “unresponsive.” No one reported any video evidence of him hanging in his cell. At least not in the reports I can pull up. The autopsy report says “death by asphyxia” which lead them to the decision it was death by hanging.
Now, here are the questions that arise. If he hung himself, it was reported that he was taken down before the Judge arrived? Also, he was supposed to have hung himself with a “piece of cloth.” Must have been one strong piece of cloth to carry the weight. Asphyxia simply indicates suffocation, so, did he hang himself, or was he strangled? He was in his cell by himself, or was he? Those involved in criminal activity have friends…and enemies. Just saying…
Now, let me address the “elephant in the room,” so to speak. No investigation was called this time, even though Iretha Lilly died in the same jail a year earlier, until a third prisoner died just one week after the Martinez boy hung himself. On November 8, 2015 Gerald Reneau was found dead in his cell at the same McLennan County Jail. Oopsee! Another inmate found dead in his cell…alone in his cell. Now the wheels of justice begin to slowly turn.
A week later, three jail guards are arrested for filing false reports concerning the death of, guess who? Michael Martinez. Seems Martinez was on a Federal Detainer and housed in a section of the jail where mandatory headcounts were to be made every half hour. Video shows that the men did not make the rounds they claimed to have made. Disturbing news, especially to Sheriff Parnell McNamara, who is running for his second term. He faces a difficult Primary against Sgt. Patrick Swanton, the Waco PD officer of Twin Peaks fame, and Willie E. Tompkins, local Pastor who spent 17 years in law enforcement before retiring to give his time to education.
McNamara can breathe a sigh of relief, as Judge Scott Felton placed the blame on LaSalle Corrections, the contractor that serves as operator of the County Facility. Of course, there is always the ultimate question on that subject. Even though there was already one death, the County extended LaSalle’s contract until 2018. Now, there have been three deaths while LaSalle has been in control. By the way, LaSalle was first retained in 2013, the first year of Parnell McNamara’s term as Sheriff… Inquiring minds might, just might, want to know…. So, the only thing that came of this whole scenario, the sum value of three lives, was a “Letter of Non-Compliance” issued by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. So, it appears that the Sheriff isn’t responsible for what goes on in his jail. Am I the only one that sees a problem with this? In Waco and McLennan County it seems lives aren’t worth much. Ask the families of the nine bikers that died at Twin Peaks on May 17,2015. Or, ask Sgt. Patrick Swanton…….