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Article updated: 6/3/2013 2:07 PM

Kane County sued over Minnesota man's 2012 jail suicide

Keith Renfroe Jr.

Keith Renfroe Jr.

 
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The mother of a 20-year-old from Minnesota who authorities say strangled himself at the Kane County jail after an arrest in May 2012 has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Sheriff Pat Perez and the county.

Keith Renfroe Jr., who was from Cottage Grove, Minn., and was staying with relatives locally, was arrested after police said he forced his way into a home in Gilberts last year and then hid in the bathroom until police arrived.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Lashawnda Renfroe argues the county was negligent in her son's death and failed to adequately supervise him while being detained.

"You have an otherwise healthy young man who died while in custody at the jail. The circumstances are unusual. The circumstances are tragic for the family," attorney David Robertson said. "They believe this is not something he would do to himself."

Renfroe was found face down and unresponsive in his cell, of which he was the only occupant. The Kane County Coroner's Office concluded the death was the result of asphyxia due to ligature strangulation, which is when a person is strangled without being hanged.

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

The toxicology report showed there were no illegal substances in Renfroe's bloodstream.

An internal sheriff's department investigation concluded Renfroe's death was a suicide and there was no negligence on behalf of jail personnel. Even though the sheriff's office has closed its investigation, Robertson said Renfroe's family deserves answers.

"We're doing all we can to investigate and uncover and determine what happened. We don't know (what happened)," he said. "It just seems quite unusual for something like this to happen."

Perez said neither he nor the county could comment on the matter because it was pending litigation.

Both sides are due in court for an initial appearance Aug. 15. The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 in damages.

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