Federal, state and local law enforcement officials are investigating the death of an inmate at the Jack Harwell Detention Center in McLennan County on Monday evening.

James Duke, warden of the privately operated jail, did not return phone messages Tuesday, and others, including local and federal officials, declined comment or referred questions to other agencies.

Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, confirmed Tuesday that officials at the Jack Harwell Detention Center notified the commission about the inmate’s death about 7:30 p.m. Monday.

The commission will review an initial report about the incident from the private jail officials before determining whether additional action is needed by the commission, Wood said.

County jails and private detention centers are required to notify the commission of an inmate’s death within 24 hours, he said.

McLennan County Justice of the Peace James Lee was called to the jail at 3101 E. Marlin Highway after the death. Lee did not return phone calls Tuesday, and a staff member in his office referred questions to the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office. Lee also did not respond immediately to a Public Information Act request for information, including whether he ordered an autopsy.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara did not return phone messages Tuesday. Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ricky Armstrong declined comment, saying the inmate was a U.S. Marshals Service prisoner and referring questions to the marshals service.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Joe Bays also declined comment, saying the matter is under investigation. Bays declined to provide details of the inmate’s death, his or her identity or suspected manner and means of death.

The jail is operated by LaSalle Corrections, which manages 18 facilities with a total inmate capacity of 13,000 in Louisiana, Texas and Georgia.

LaSalle Executive Director Rodney Cooper did not return phone calls to his office Tuesday.

A McLennan County grand jury indicted three former LaSalle Corrections employees in February on charges that they altered documents to make it appear they conducted scheduled inmate checks following a suicide in the jail in November.

Michael Wayne Crittenden, 24; Milton Edward Walker, 33; and Christopher David Simpson, 24, each were indicted on a charge of tampering with government records, a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Surveillance video showed that Crittenden, Walker and Simpson all lied about conducting head counts in N-Wing in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, according to records filed in the case.

A review was conducted after Michael Angelo Martinez, 25, of Waco, was found unresponsive in his single-person cell. Martinez’s death was ruled suicide by asphyxia. Martinez had been in jail since Aug. 18 on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of cocaine. He also was being held on a federal detainer, according to county records.

McNamara said in November that Martinez was in the section of the jail where inmates are to be checked every 30 minutes.

Recommended for you