What can be done after teen deaths behind bars?

EMBED </>More Videos

Uniece Fennell and Jose Lara-Pineda committed suicide in jail.

Two teenagers taking their own lives by hanging themselves in jail has advocates wondering what else can be done to keep people from hurting themselves behind bars.

"We'd like to see the jail open up to allow outside bodies to see what happened," said David Theuer, with the Durham-based prisoner advocacy group Inside-Outside.

That's not likely to happen, but in both cases investigations are underway.

In Wake County, Sheriff Donnie Harrison said he's investigating what led up to 18-year-old Jose Lara-Pineda's death. On the day he was booked and charged with murder, a nurse recommended that Lara-Pineda be evaluated by a psychiatrist. Harrison says he was taken to a holding cell and was left alone. Shortly after, he was found unconscious after having tried to hang himself. He was taken to the hospital where he died the next day.

Harrison said he has fired two correctional officers for "conduct unbecoming" in relation to the treatment of Lara-Pineda. He didn't say what they did but said it wasn't related to Lara-Pineda's death, rather how he was treated while being held.

Harrison said the two officers fired were Jowanna Mitchell, a 13-year veteran hired in 2003, and Seven McKoy, a more recent hire brought on in 2012.

In Durham, Sheriff Mike Andrews has ceded an investigation into the death of 17-year-old Uniece Fennell to the State Bureau of Investigation. On an internal form, Interim Detention Director Major Julian Couch lists Fennell's cause of death as suicide and means of death as "tied sheet around middle window bar."

"It's our duty and obligation to provide a grieving family with answers," Andrews wrote in a statement. "Our continued thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time. When there's a loss of life on our watch, we take that seriously. I am confident in our investigators and the reporting process set by the State; however, I also want the public to be confident in our findings. To remove doubt and speculation, the Sheriff's Office has decided to ask the State Bureau of Investigation to investigate the unfortunate suicide of Uniece Fennell, and the events leading up to her death at the Durham County Detention Facility."

ABC11 is looking into claims made by Fennell's attorney that she had complained of verbal abuse by a detention officer.

Report a Typo

Related Topics:
newssuicideprisoniteamRaleighDurham
(Copyright ©2017 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

Load Comments