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Lawsuit: Jail in Virginia let 24-year-old starve to death

By Allen Cone

PORTSMOUTH, Va., May 17 (UPI) -- A 24-year-old man diagnosed as psychotic and delusional was left to starve to death for months in a Virginia jail cell, a federal lawsuit says.

An attorney representing the family of Jamycheal Mitchell detailed his 101 days behind bars at Hampton Roads Regional Jail in a 112-page lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

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Roxanne Adams, Mitchell's aunt, is listed as the plaintiff and administrator of his estate. She is asking for $60 million in damages.

The lawsuit filed names 31 defendants, including state mental health officials, jail administrators, guards, health care workers and court employees.

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Mitchell, who was arrested for stealing $5.05 in sweets and soda from a convenience store, died in Aug. 19 of heart problems and weight loss, according to the state medical examiner's office. Jail staff denied him many meals, cut off the water to his cell and left him with no clothes, bedding or shoes as he smeared feces on the window of his cell, the plaintiff alleges in the lawsuit.

Mitchell lost about 40 pounds while in jail and was 144 pounds when he died, documents say.

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The jail conducted an internal investigation that cleared its employees of wrongdoing, but it has refused to release the report. No jail employees or state mental health department workers have lost their jobs because of Mitchell's death.

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But last week, Portsmouth Commonwealth's Attorney Stephanie Morales asked Capt. Tim Reibel of the Virginia State Police bureau in Chesapeake to conduct a criminal investigation into Mitchell's death.

A half-dozen state and local agencies say they don't have authority to examine the jail and its operation.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe said the state inspector general law may need to be changed.

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"When they wrote the inspector general law here in Virginia, which was before my time as governor, they didn't give them the power to actually investigate what they should be investigating," McAuliffe said Wednesday.

McAuliffe has said he's deeply disturbed by Mitchell's death and doesn't think Mitchell should have even gone to jail.

Mitchell, whose family said he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia when he was 10 years old, was jailed in April 2015.

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A judge found him incompetent to stand trial and ordered him to be transferred to a state mental hospital in Williamsburg, but he was never added to the hospital's waiting list because of clerical errors.

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