LOCKPORT – DeJuan L. Hunt II, the suspect charged with two sexual assaults at Niagara County Community College who was found dead in his Niagara County Jail cell, was an accomplished artist and author who was never in trouble before, his mother said Wednesday.
“I just got one question. I just want to know what happened to my son,” said Jenine Hunt.
Authorities are still investigating what caused the death of Hunt, 25, of Niagara Falls, whose body was discovered Monday morning.
His family said Wednesday that Hunt told them last weekthat he had been beaten by guards in the jail.
Jenine Hunt said her son had never been to jail prior to this. Hunt was her only living child, and she said she was still walking around the house in disbelief.
“I can still smell him. He always smelled so good,” Jenine Hunt said between tears.
Hunt was found deceased in his bed at 6 a.m. Monday. Sheriff James R. Voutour said on Tuesday that officials were awaiting pathology and toxicology tests to determine a cause of death.
He said a deputy discovered Hunt was not breathing when he went to check on Hunt Monday morning.
“We certainly didn’t suspect anything or he would have been in the hospital. He was fine when he went to bed,” said the sheriff.
Hunt became the fourth inmate to die in the Niagara County Jail in the past four years, since medical care of inmates was privatized.
Hunt’s mother said she and her sister visited DeJuan in jail on Aug. 24 and found him with a “big gash” over his left eye and a red and black bruise around his eye. He also lifted open the left side of his jumper to show them missing hair where she said it appeared he had been hit with a Taser.
“His wrists looked like the handcuffs had been grated into his skin. They were so pink and raw,” she said. "He was crying to me that he needed to see the doctor."
“He whispered to me, ‘Just take me home,’ said Hunt. “I said did those officers hurt you, and he just shook his head and said yes.”
Hunt’s mother said her son did have mental health issues and had graduated from an excellent treatment program.
But more recently he needed help and she had been trying to get him “back on his meds.” She said he was never violent, but would “walk around and look a little strange.”
“I’m not going to say my son was right or he was wrong,” Hunt conceded of the sexual assault charges.
“My son don’t do drugs, he don’t drink. He don’t even smoke a cigarette,” she said.
Hunt said she plans to seek an attorney for a legal investigation.
DeJuan grew up in Niagara Falls, attended local schools and had been enrolled at the Cleveland Art Institute in Cleveland, Ohio.
Hunt’s art had been exhibited locally and in Cleveland, his mom said.His work was shown at art shows at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center as well as Wine on Third, the Old Falls St. Music and Art Festival and the Niagara Falls Public Library, Jenine Hunt said.
In his online blog and portfolio, Hunt was attempting to create a new type of art style which he called “progressive art,” describing it as two images combined that were more than collage.
He also authored a children’s book, “Old Buddy Gray,” in 2015, his family said. Online, Hunt called his book a “juvenile education book” to “educate youth in the right way.”
In addition to his mother, Hunt is survived by his maternal grandparents Elizabeth and Roosevelt Townsend, also of Niagara Falls. Funeral services will be held privately for the family.