Harnett County family left with questions after loved one dies in detention center

Monique John Image
Thursday, December 29, 2022
Harnett County family has questions after loved one dies behind bars
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A Harnett County family is left with questions after a loved one set to be released died behind bars.

LILLINGTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Harnett County family is left with questions after a loved one died behind bars.

"It's too many deaths over there. And I want an answer for my father's death," Lawanda Snead said. "I'm not going to give up. I'm going to keep on and on until somebody gives me a logical answer."

On Thursday, Snead was supposed to pick up her father, Williams Surles, 64, from the Harnett County Detention Center. Instead, she's left waiting for answers about how he died 10 days before he was set to be released.

"If somebody cared over there at Harnett County, I'm thinking that I should be getting a phone call or something -- showing some kind of concern," Snead said. "But I haven't received none of that."

Surles, of Dunn, was serving a month-long stint for violating probation on a DWI charge. But before Snead could see her father again, he was found dead in his cell bunk about 8:20 a.m. on Dec. 19.

She acknowledged that her father's health had long been deteriorating -- he suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure. But Snead said that with past cases of inmate deaths in Harnett County, she's concerned that neglect or foul play could have played a part in his death.

She said it breaks her heart to know that her father died in jail.

"I wish he wouldn't have been in the presence of people that don't know and don't care nothing about him. That's what I wish. I wish he was home," Snead said. "I don't know why nobody don't know nothing if he's in the facility where people work at, and they supposed to keep an eye on him."

An autopsy has been conducted. However, Harnett County said the results will not be released for about six months.

The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the situation. The Harnett County Sheriff's Office is conducting a parallel investigation "to ensure all policies and procedures were followed."