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updated: 7/27/2012 5:19 PM

Authorities: Man who died in Kane jail strangled himself

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  • Keith Renfroe Jr.

    Keith Renfroe Jr.


A 20-year-old Minnesota man used a shirt to strangle himself in May at the Kane County jail, according to an internal investigation by the sheriff's office.

Keith Renfroe Jr., who moved from Cottage Grove, Minn., to Gilberts earlier this year, was found face down in his cell May 19.

He was removed from life support and pronounced dead May 22. Until Thursday, the sheriff's office had declined to specify how Renfroe injured himself.

"It was basically a suicide," said Kane County Sheriff's Department Lt. Michael Beatus, adding that Renfroe did not hang himself.

Beatus said the case is closed and no negligence was found on behalf of jail personnel.

The sheriff's office released the 21-page report Friday after the Daily Herald filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

Meanwhile, an attorney hired by Renfroe's family said he had doubts about the sheriff's office report.

"If that's how they say he killed himself, that's very suspect," said attorney Michael Padden. "As we've been told by medical people, you pass out and you don't the ability to strangle yourself. To say that he manually strangled himself, it borders on absurd."

According to documents released by the Kane County Coroner's Office, an autopsy was performed May 25 by Larry Blum, a forensic pathologist.

Blum wrote that it was his conclusion that "death was the result of asphyxia due to ligature strangulation."

Ligature strangulation is when a person is strangled without being hanged.

Renfroe was being held in the jail on felony trespassing charges that he broke into a home in Gilberts, said he was being chased and hid in a bathroom until police arrived and arrested him, according to court records and witness interviews.

According to the sheriff's report, Renfroe told Gilberts police that he had consumed alcohol and smoked methamphetamine before breaking into the home.

But the toxicology tests showed that Renfroe only had continine, which is a nicotine byproduct, in his bloodstream and no illegal substances, the autopsy report said.

Padden said the toxicology tests don't mesh with what police said and that Renfroe was never suicidal in the past. "All of a sudden, in the short time he's in jail, he decides to strangle himself and in this way?" Padden asked.

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