New Investigative Report Details Black Woman Who Mysteriously Died in Jail After Begging for Medical Care

by Xara Aziz
Credit: Courier Journal

The family of a 23-year-old who mysteriously died in a Louisville jail after being chased down by police has come out to recount the moments leading to her fateful death.

In a Rolling Stone feature, the mother of Ta’Neasha Chappell recalled the incident on the day she last heard from her daughter.

“I’m throwing up blood,” Chappell’s mother remembered her daughter saying to her. “This is my second time. I overlooked it today the first time, but it’s happening again.” 

She proceeded to recount that a correctional officer went to her cell to examine her bloody vomit but found nothing wrong and left. Chappell, who was the only Black woman in her unit, was being detained there for nearly two months where she endured racial slurs from fellow inmates. She had originally been booked and charged with theft and fleeing police.

Chappell had been vomiting blood for nearly two days and begged for medical care but her requests were denied. According to the report, some accused her of faking her illness. When jail staff finally called for an ambulance it was too late. She was pronounced dead two hours later.

Autopsy results reveal her death was from “probable toxicity from an unknown substance, with the manner of death undetermined,” according to the report. A 900-page investigation report obtained by the publication found that there was no evidence of her being poisoned and no one has been charged with her death.

“It’s an intersection of all sorts of awful things,” says Miriam Northcutt Bohmert, an associate professor of criminal justice at Indiana University in Bloomington. “Pretrial detention for people who can’t afford to get out on bail. Black people in southern Indiana being afraid of police officers. Lack of health care. Low education and pay for the correctional officers who are tasked with assessing people — many don’t have the training, the education, or the compassion.”

Chappell’s mother has filed a civil lawsuit against the jail, alleging that its staff’s failure to tend to her daughter caused her death. The case goes to trial in June.

Meanwhile, her mother only has memories of her and her daughter who she believes was killed.

“Every time Ta’Neasha saw me, she would say, ‘What do I look like, Mama?’ I would say ‘Mr. Potato Head.’” 

In a note Chappell wrote to herself while jailed, she wrote that when she got out, she intended to turn her life around. “I’m missing my baby girl like crazy. Whew I gotta change this BS for this girl. She don’t deserve none of this sh*t I’m doing man. None of it! When I go home, my main focus is Seven Counties, my daughter and my job. All the other shit is for the birds. I will make it right. I promise myself and my little one.”

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