Top row: Raynette Turner; Joyce Curnell; Sandra Bland. Bottom row: Ralkina Jones; Kindra Chapman. Top row: Twitter. Bottom row: 13 Action News; YouTube screenshot
It’s been a little over two weeks since Sandra Bland was discovered dead in her Texas jail cell from what authorities say was a suicide.
In those 17 days since Bland’s controversial death, which has sparked social media fury and a plethora of unanswered questions, at least four more black women have died while in custody. Most of them were in jail for two days maximum. Most of them were being held on minor charges like shoplifting and were waiting to see a judge. Some of them suffered health issues. All of them should have been going home. All of them were fairly young, and all of them leave behind families and a community with questions, including, “What happened?”
Here’s what we know about the five:
1. Sandra Bland
Sandra Bland Twitter
Bland’s case is probably the most prominent, since not only was it the first incident to take place in July, but it is also the one with the murkiest details, garnering the most suspicion.
The 28-year-old was pulled over by a Texas trooper on July 10, reportedly after failing to signal a lane change. The trooper, identified as Brian Encinia, is seen in dash-cam footage telling Bland that he would “light [her] up” if she did not step out of her vehicle. Bland was arrested on a charge of assaulting an officer after Encinia claimed that she kicked him. That alleged kick was not caught on the dash-cam footage because the pair were out of view.
Bland was eventually booked at a Waller County, Texas, jail. Three days later, she was found hanging in her cell, according to police officials. Officials and a preliminary autopsy ruled the hanging a suicide, indicating no sign of struggle.
However, friends and family have dismissed the notion, saying that Bland wouldn’t kill herself. Some have outright accused the police of foul play. There were even rumors circulating that Bland may have been dead in her mug shot, leading to death threats against officials, which prompted a new video to be released to show that Bland was “alive and well” when she arrived at the jail, according to police officials.
Several questions remain about Bland’s death, and her family has ordered an independent autopsy in hopes of learning more. The Texas Rangers and the FBI are both involved in the case.
2. Kindra Chapman
Kindra Chapman YouTube screenshot
Chapman was just 18 and had been in an Alabama jail for less than two hours when she was found hanging from a bedsheet in her cell July 14, just one day after Bland was found dead. Officials also ruled her death a suicide. In this case, her family has concurred with the ruling.
“We want the world to know what a wonderful soul she was. At the same time, we want the world to know that her death was a suicide. We have hired lawyers to investigate how this could have happened while she was in police custody,” the family said in a statement.
Chapman was arrested after allegedly stealing a cellphone and was booked at about 6:22 p.m. on a first-degree-robbery charge. At approximately 7:50 p.m., she was found dead.
Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls said there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the case.
3. Joyce Curnell
Joyce Curnell Twitter
About eight days after Chapman’s death, a 50-year-old South Carolina woman was found dead in a Charleston County jail, according to the Post and Courier.
Curnell, who was from Edisto Island, was found dead in her cell July 22 around 5 p.m. Curnell had been arrested the day before on shoplifting charges. The older woman had been taken to a local hospital for an unidentified medical issue before being transported to jail.
According to the report, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office has asked the state Law Enforcement Division to investigate the death.
4. Ralkina Jones
Ralkina Jones YouTube screenshot
The 37-year-old Cleveland mother, who reportedly had health issues including a brain aneurysm and a heart murmur, was arrested last Friday following a domestic dispute.
Jones reportedly started smashing her ex-husband’s vehicle as it sat in a Save-a-Lot parking lot, breaking out his car window and attempting to smash the windshield. When her ex, Brandon Jones, attempted to stop her, Ralkina Jones reportedly turned on him, hitting him in the arm. Ralkina Jones then allegedly attempted to run over Brandon Jones and a friend with her car, while her 12-year-old daughter was in the backseat. She was arrested on multiple charges including assault, domestic violence and endangering a child.
On Saturday, Jones was taken to the hospital after a jail administrator noticed that she seemed to be lethargic. A few hours later she was returned to her prison cell. Paramedics were called to check in on Jones around 12:45 a.m. Sunday and reported that she seemed fine. However, at about 7:30 a.m. Sunday, the mother was found unresponsive in her cell bed.
Jones’ family has also been demanding answers, saying that the family has not received any information from Cleveland Heights police. An autopsy was conducted Monday, but the cause of death has not yet been determined, pending further studies.
“If she made a mistake and made the wrong decisions, she doesn’t deserve to be neglected, knowing she has health issues,” her sister Rita Samuels told a local news station.
5. Raynette Turner
Raynette Turner Twitter
The suburban-New York mother of eight was also facing shoplifting charges. Turner, a 43-year-old from Westchester County, was being held in a Mount Vernon, N.Y., police-holding cell over the weekend, after, officials say, she was caught shoplifting Saturday.
Turner was waiting for arraignment Monday, but by Monday afternoon, she was dead.
Much like Jones, Turner had been taken to a hospital—in her case, next door to the jail—after she complained about not feeling well on Sunday. About two hours later, she was returned to her cell. She would be found dead the following day.
Her husband of 23 years, Herman Turner, said that he waited in court all day Monday for his wife to show up, only to be told to come back the next day. After he arrived home, two detectives came by to tell him him about his wife’s in-custody death. In addition to her husband, Raynette Turner leaves behind eight children ages 8-21.
Mount Vernon Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Burke said that “no foul play” was suspected in Turner’s death, but an autopsy has been scheduled to determine cause of death.
Breanna Edwards is a newswriter at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.