Coroner: Lowndes inmate apparently tried to hang himself in cell


Jefferson Russell Finch

Jefferson Russell Finch



Zack Plair and Isabelle Altman



Mississippi Bureau of Investigation agents are looking into two inmate deaths in Golden Triangle jails last week.  


Jefferson Russell Finch, 26, died early Friday morning at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle after officers at Lowndes County Adult Detention Center found him unresponsive in his cell Thursday evening. 


Dale Jerome O'Neal, 54, was pronounced dead in his cell in Clay County Jail in West Point just before 8 a.m. Friday. 


Both Finch's and O'Neal's bodies have been sent to the Mississippi Medical Examiner's office in Pearl for autopsy. 


Lowndes sheriff's deputies found Finch alone in his cell and not breathing at about 5 p.m. Thursday, after he apparently tried to hang himself, Coroner Greg Merchant told The Dispatch. 


Authorities immediately began performing CPR and other life-saving measures, then an ambulance took Finch to Baptist where he was pronounced dead at 5 a.m. Friday, a sheriff's office release said. 


Circuit court records indicate Finch was sentenced Feb. 26, after he pleaded guilty to a possession of methamphetamine charge, to 20 years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections, including 10 to serve and 10 suspended. He was waiting in county jail for MDOC to transfer him to a state facility. 


Since MBI is handling the death investigation, sheriff's office Chief Deputy Greg Wright said he would not comment on the details. MBI had not released further information on either case by press time. 


Clay County Coroner Alvin Carter said he expects provisional results from O'Neal's autopsy early this week, but he doesn't want to speculate on cause of death before receiving those. 


West Point Police Department arrested O'Neal on a failure to appear bench warrant and a trespassing charge. He was booked in Clay County Jail on March 8.




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