Family Of Henderson County Inmate Who Died In Custody Looking For Answers - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

07/18/08 - Henderson County

Family Of Henderson County Inmate Who Died In Custody Looking For Answers

Did mistreatment by an East Texas Sheriff's department lead to an inmate's death?

The family of former Henderson County inmate Debra Newton want to know how she died and why her body was quickly cremated. And as we've reported in another twist, Henderson County Sheriff Ronny Brownlow is suddenly retiring months early.

KLTV 7's Courtney Lane met with Henderson County officials and family members who say they won't rest until they find some answers.

"Debra was a sweet, kind person. She did have a drug problem....she did not deserve to die the way that she died," Truett Worrell told KLTV 7 News today.

What happened behind the jail walls to 56 year old Debra Newton is a mystery.

Former inmates tell our ABC sister-station, WFAA that Newton suffered a violent seizure in April.

But instead of getting immediate treatment, the inmates say Newton was dragged to an isolation cell.

"She might have had a minor seizure. She might have been ok if they took her to the doctor. But she laid there for 2 days. They had other inmates drag her to another cell, that's what you do to a dog. You put a dog down and you drag it around when it's dead, but this is a human being," said Worrell.

The next day Newton was taken to a hospital, but she later died.

The Texas Rangers are now investigating what family members say is a cover up by the Henderson County Sheriff's department.

"Was there some beating going on, is that what caused the seizure? We don't have the answers."

Another question is why Newton's body was rushed to a funeral home and cremated.

"They immediately took her body and burned it and that looks like it's to cover up the evidence."

Sheriff Ronny Brownlow was unable to comment today because he is on vacation. He also announced he's retiring, months early.

County Commissioners met today about finding a temporary replacement.

"In my 10 years on the court this is the shortest time frame for an appointment that we've faced," said Wade McKinney, a Henderson County commissioner.

As far as Newton's death, and the possible link of a cover-up, County officials could only speak of the honorable service by Sheriff Brownlow.

"He's done a world of good for Henderson County and for the people," said County Judge David Holstein.

When we asked him if he anticipate actions against Brownlow, or the Henderson County Sheriff's Department, he replied,"I've got no comment, it's out of our hands."

And with the investigation still in the very early stages, the Texas Rangers are still waiting to get to the bottom of it.

Commissioners say they expect to appoint someone to fill in for Sheriff Brownlow by July 29th.

Courtney Lane, Reporting clane@kltv.com

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