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Texas Parolee Dies Under Mysterious Circumstances After Arrest

Charles Albert Cathey III, 42, had been out of prison for almost a month and was living at the Last Chance Recovery Center for recovering substance abusers when he called the manager to tell him he would be about a half-hour late for the center’s 9:00 p.m. curfew. It was the first time he had broken curfew and the manager told him to return at once. He never made it.

Cathey was arrested by Houston police officers in connection with a burglary several blocks from the center, about forty minutes after he made the call. He suffered severe injuries before being booked into the Harris County Jail and died two days later, on January 17, 2011.

Cathey’s family was shocked at the condition of his body when they were summoned by doctors at Ben Taub General Hospital the same day Cathey was arrested. He was unresponsive in a hospital bed, hooked up to a respirator and wearing a neck brace. His head was swollen on one side and he had a bad cut on the chin. Severe, gaping wrist lacerations showed where he had been handcuffed. He also had bruising on his legs that were caused by restraints. Further, he had a raspberry-colored mark on his chest that his family believed was caused by a Taser. When disconnected from life support two days later, Cathey died.

Police said they did not cause Cathey’s extensive injuries but claimed that he suffered a heart attack as they attempted to book him into jail. They said he had broken into an apartment near the center, stole $5 and some car keys, fought with the tenant, then tried to break into another apartment. According to responding officers he was agitated and screaming when arrested but complied with their orders. Later, they reported he tried to kick out the roof of the patrol car. Cathey was arrested for burglary of a habitation and violation of his parole for missing curfew. Five hours later, doctors at Ben Taub called Cathey’s family.

Following Cathey’s arrest, he was taken to Harris County’s NeuroPsychiatric Center for a mental health evaluation because, according to police, he was acting erratically, shouting suicidal threats and seemed disoriented. The NeuroPsychiatric Center has a policy against accepting felony arrestees, so they gave the police a rejection letter that allowed them to book him into jail. The NeuroPsychiatric Center’s staff told Cathey’s family he had no visible injuries at that time.

Robert “Bob” Long, 64, was a prisoner at the Harris County Jail the day Cathey was arrested. He saw Cathey wheeled through the back door of the jail’s infirmary, unresponsive, with a pool of blood beneath his head and bleeding from his mouth and ears. He said Cathey looked like he had been in a fight because his shirt was torn and the knees of his pants were muddy.

“He appeared to have been roughed up very, very badly,” said Long. Cathey collapsed as he was being fingerprinted; he had an elevated temperature and faint pulse. Despite jail staff performing CPR and electroshock defibrillation for 35 to 40 minutes, Cathey remained unresponsive.

Doctors told Cathey’s family they found cocaine in his system, but didn’t say what caused his death. A custodial death report released later by the Texas Attorney General’s Office determined that Cathey had died due to accidental drug or alcohol intoxication, though that still didn’t explain the injuries he suffered.

“There’s nothing in there about his injuries,” said Cathey’s sister, Tamara Cathey. “I just don’t understand that. He had major injuries. Why is none of that on there? That’s what I’m questioning.”

The police department, which has launched investigations by its homicide and internal affairs divisions, declined to comment.

Source: Houston Chronicle

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