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State opens probe of Niagara inmate’s death

LOCKPORT – The State Commission of Corrections has opened an investigation of the Aug. 29 death of Niagara County Jail inmate DeJuan L. Hunt II.

“We can confirm that an investigation is ongoing,” spokesman Justin Mason said Thursday.

Hunt, 25, of Niagara Falls, was found unresponsive in his cell. He was being held after being charged with two sexual assaults that allegedly occurred July 19 and Aug. 3 on the Niagara County Community College campus in Sanborn.

His mother, Jenine Townsend, told The Buffalo News two days after the death that when she last visited her son Aug. 24, he had a gash over one eye and bruising around it. She said that Hunt told her he had been beaten by jail guards. She also said that her son had suffered from mental health issues and had been off his medication.

The Aug. 30 autopsy reportedly did not determine the cause of death. Sheriff James R. Voutour said the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office has told him it might be another month before toxicology test results are known.

Townsend said Thursday that Erie County refused to release a copy of the autopsy report to her sister because it had been sent to the state, but Townsend said she’s been told it will be released to her within 120 days.

“That’s just driving me crazy. It’s eating me up,” Townsend said of the delay in learning why her son died.

Hunt is the fourth inmate to die in the Niagara County Jail in four years, since the county privatized medical care for inmates. Two died in December 2012 and one in October 2014, leading to survivors’ lawsuits over alleged inadequate care. One suit was settled for $100,000, and the other two cases are still open.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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