ME Rules Death at Milwaukee County Jail a Homicide

Sep 15, 2016

The death of 38-year-old Milwaukee man who was found unresponsive in his cell at the Milwaukee County Jail in April has been ruled a homicide. The County Medical Examiner's Office says Terrill Thomas died of profound dehydration. The report also noted Thomas was suffering from bipolar disorder.  The Medical Examiner found no evidence of injury.

Whether this finding means corrections officers for the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department will face charges is not immediately clear. Karen Domagalski, Operations Manager of the Medical Examiner's Office, wrote in an email, "The classification of Homicide for the purpose of death certification is a 'neutral' term and neither indicates nor implies criminal intent, which remains a determination within the province of legal processes."

The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office has also issued a release, saying:

"The MCSO is not conducting this death investigation; has not received any updated findings directly from either the ME; MPD; or DAs Office; and is withholding employee internal investigations and will not be commenting on this matter until the completion of all investigative and review processes, and any resultant civil litigation."

Thomas was found unresponsive in his cell by a corrections officer at 1:36 AM on April 24th. He was pronounced dead at 1:57. Inmates who were in jail at the same time as Thomas have claimed officers refused to give him water for as many as six days. The inmates have said his faucet was turned off. A report from the Medical Examiner's office also noted the water had been turned off to the toilet in Thomas's cell.

After Thomas died, Milwaukee County Sheriff Clarke issued a release claiming he'd directed the Milwaukee Police Department to investigate his death. In the release, the sheriff said he hoped "to avoid any conflict of interest." 

Thomas was jailed nine days before his death after being arrested in relation to a shooting at the Potawatomi casino.