Inquest Fails to Find Cause of Ill. Inmate’s Death


A Peoria County coroner’s jury couldn’t determine Thursday how Preston McDowell died in an Illinois prison last October. The hearing disclosed new details about the circumstances of his death–for example, that prison officials did not try to resuscitate him when they realized his heart had stopped, reports the Chicago Tribune. McDowell, who was serving a 15-year sentence for rape, died of “lack of oxygen to the brain” due to “positional asphyxia,” said Chief Deputy Coroner Johnna Ingersoll.

Linda McDowell, the inmate’s sister, said she was baffled by the six-member jury’s ruling. “My brother was killed in prison,” she said. The circumstances of McDowell’s death have remained a mystery since the Oct. 18 incident. The coroner’s jury’s decision means the manner of McDowell’s death will be officially noted on his death certificate as “undetermined.” It could have been recorded as a homicide, suicide or accident. A state police agent told the coroner’s jury that McDowell had taken his cellmate hostage that morning. He was sprayed with pepper spray and later restrained by seven correction officers. At some point, he said, “I give,” then went limp. He died five days later.


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