In Texas, Walker County Sheriff Clint McRae finds himself in the middle of controversy after a 22-year-old woman named Symone Marshall died in police custody in the Walker County jail. Marshall’s family claims McRae and his staff ignored her cries for medical help.
McRae, however, says Marshall did not die due to negligence.
“What I want to make very serious is that you understand there is absolutely no reason at all to think that the death of Ms. Marshall was caused by anything other than a health related issue,” McRae, who has over 25 years of experience in law enforcement, told NewsOne.
McRae called for calm, saying investigators are trying to determine what happened.
Marshall went into convulsions on May 10 and was found unresponsive in her cell. Authorities rushed her to Huntsville Memorial, where she was pronounced dead, sparking an internal probe and reigniting the national debate about Blacks and the criminal justice system. Her death harkens back to Sandra Bland and Rekia Boyd, two other Black women who died in police custody.
Marshall landed in jail in late April after a single vehicle accident, according to police. Unable to post bail set at $5,000, she languished for 15 days in jail.
McRae condemned media reports, urging people “to be extremely cautious.”
“Anyone that makes false statement[s] during an investigation can be charged with hindering an investigation or providing false information to a police [officer],” he said.
Meanwhile, Marshall’s family is grappling with grief. Some relatives are accusing jail officials of a cover-up.
“I feel very threatened right now because I know they are covering up things and they know I kind of know what’s been going on day one before the world, before any newspaper person,” said Symone’s father, Wayne Marshall, 52.
Marshall’s sister, Honey Marshall, says that her sister’s cries went ignored after she complained of head pain and blackouts over a series of phone conversations between the two. McRae says otherwise.
“All incoming and outgoing phone calls are recorded. There was never any contact with her sister, Honey. There were a couple of occasions where she attempted to contact [Honey],” said McRae. “Either Honey was gone, or refused to take her calls.”
Wayne Marshall has tried to fill in the holes of what happened to his daughter after she moved from Detroit to Texas two months prior to her death. He said that she moved south to live with her boyfriend and worked at a Huntsville IHOP. She left her three-year-old daughter Malaysia in Detroit under the care of the child’s father with plans to reunite once she regained financial stability.
On April 26, Marshall was driving her car with a friend on her way back from Houston when she got into the car accident, her father explained.
A state trooper then arrested Marshall and her companion after they allegedly found cocaine in her purse, according to McRae. He also said Marshall gave false identification.
Her father vehemently denies that his daughter would be in possession of an illegal substance.
“My daughter don’t do drugs. She don’t do drugs. They won’t be able to say they found drugs in her body,” Wayne told NewsOne.
McRae says the trooper on the scene offered a medical evaluation as part of protocol, but the women signed a waiver refusing medical attention. They were then transported to the Walker County Sheriff’s office for processing. He states they denied a medical screening a second time during the booking process.
Wayne Marshall believes his daughter was ran off the road and demands further inquiry.
“The ranger trying to tell me they don’t even see any signs of her being ran off the road,” Wayne said. “He acting like none of that is true like someone just drove themselves off the road. Just arrest her and forget who ran her off the road?”
Marshall remained in jail, while her friend immediately posted bond and was released. According to McRae, Marshall’s companion is awaiting a trial date.
While McRae refutes that Marshall complained of head pain over the phone to her sister, he does acknowledge that she visited a nurse and doctor for stomach pain on the jail premises halfway into her 15-day stay. She was released back to her cell after she felt better.
“The physician said there was nothing wrong with her,” McRae said.
A few days later, she was found convulsing in her cell. Unresponsive, authorities rushed her to Huntsville Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
“Thirty minutes after she (Symone) died, I got the call from my oldest daughter Honey,” Wayne said. He claims he was unaware that Marshall was incarcerated until he was notified of her death. He believes his daughter died from a blood clot.
An autopsy performed by the Harris County Medical Examiner has not yet been released, according to KHOU.
McRae says he feels confident that his team followed correct protocol and has based the investigation on “facts.” He also says certain detectives have been in contact with the Marshalls, though he has not.
“I would be more than happy to meet with the family. I would want to do it face to face, not over the phone. Our heart and prayers go out to the family for losing a loved one,” said McRae.