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A Young Mom Was Arrested for Theft — and Died Mysteriously in Jail

On the evening of July 15, 2021, 23-year-old Ta’Neasha Chappell called the staff of the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown, Indiana to tell them “I’m throwing up blood. This is my second time. I overlooked it today the first time, but it’s happening again.”

As the only Black woman in her jail unit, Chappell endured racist slurs from other inmates for more than seven weeks while facing charges of theft and fleeing the police.

For almost 19 hours, Chappell begged for medical care while vomiting blood, stumbling, falling, banging her head on a metal bed frame, wearing nothing but soiled underwear, becoming increasingly incoherent, and eventually writhing on the floor naked. But jail workers failed to bring her to the hospital, and even accused her of faking her illness.

Staff finally called an ambulance a day later around 3:15 p.m. on July 16, but Chappell died two and half hours later. In an autopsy conducted by the Indiana State Police, the cause of death was determined to be probable toxicity from an unknown substance, and the manner of death was unknown. It was unclear how the toxic substance entered her body.

The police found no evidence that Chappell had been poisoned by inmates or jail employees, according to a nearly 900-page investigation obtained by Rolling Stone. According to the prosecutor, no crime was committed, and no charges were filed.

Chappell’s mother, LaVita McClain, is suing 13 jail employees and the sheriff for failing to provide adequate medical care to her daughter, claiming negligence caused her daughter's death. A trial is scheduled for June 26.

Ta'Neasha Chappell’s last moments of life in Jackson County Jail is a tragic yet all-too familiar example of how the American justice system routinely fails Black Americans through violent policing, unfair bail practices, jailhouse abuse, and a slew of other egregious injustices.


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