Man pleads for medical help, then dies in Hampton Roads Regional Jail

Posted at 5:58 PM, Sep 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-01 19:50:15-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - An inmate was begging and desperate for medical help in the Hampton Roads Regional Jail two days before he died, according to a document obtained by his family.

Almost a month later Henry Stewart’s family said they still don’t understand what happened.

An emergency grievance form states that Stewart repeatedly asked for help and two days after writing it he was dead.

Michelle Wilson, Stewart’s brother said she would exchange letters with her brother while he was in jail.

“I still go to the mailbox to get the mail and I'm thinking I'm going to get a letter from my brother. I won't get any more letters. I won't see my brother come home. He won't be back at all,” said Wilson.

60- year-old Stewart was serving time inside the Hampton Roads Regional Jail for a probation violation, according to his family. Court records show that he had been in trouble in the past for felony shoplifting, misdemeanor assault, and other charges.

Back on August 6 Wilson said the family got a phone call from a detective who said Stewart died in jail.

Portsmouth Police confirm that there is an investigation into his death, but said they don’t believe there was any foul play involved and said they are waiting for toxicology results to come back.

“The hardest thing in the world for me to do was to tell my mother that Henry was dead,” said Wilson.

Wilson said she then was contacted by another inmate who had been recently let out of jail.

“He began to tell me things about my brother about him being sick coughing up blood filing grievances out every day trying to get some medical," said Wilson.

She said other people contacted her too. In total, she said there were four strangers who called her to talk about what was going on in the jail. They all told her that Stewart told others to contact his sister, Wilson if something were to happen to him.

But Wilson said the most shocking revelation came when her family received his belongings from the jail and inside was an emergency grievance form filled out, dated two days before Stewart’s death.

According to the document he writes he blacked out twice in 24 hours and that he keeps asking to go to the emergency room…  That he can’t hold water down or food and that he doesn’t now how many emergency grievances he has written with the same reply --  Wait on your appointment.

“When I saw that I melted. I totally melted. I said wait a minute he's pleading for help," said Wilson.

But according to the document Henry's request for medical help was determined not to be an emergency. It went on to state that Mr. Stewart refused to take his seizure medicine, has been evaluated offsite by a specialist and will receive a follow up by a provider.

“Just because you did a crime and you got to do your time, I'm OK with that. I'm not against the law but I'm against wrongdoing and they did wrong,” said Wilson.

Relatives said they were told by the medical examiner that Stewart suffered from internal bleeding and had a stomach ulcer, but today the M.E. Office said a cause and manner of death are still pending.

After repeated calls and emails to the Hampton Roads Regional Jail News 3 was told the jail had no comment about the situation and directed us to their attorney.

Attorney Jeff Rosen replied to an email saying, “I have advised my client not to discuss the matter since litigation is anticipated and furthermore they cannot release any information related to an inmates medical treatment.”

The Hampton Roads Regional Jail made headlines recently when the family of a Portsmouth man who died in jail has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Norfolk Federal Court.

On August 19, 2015, 24-year-old Jamycheal Mitchell's body was found inside the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. The lawsuit says he withered away in jail and died from wasting syndrome.

A judge’s order that would have sent Mitchell to a state mental health facility had been sitting in a file drawer for weeks before his death.

Mitchell was arrested in April 2015for stealing $5 in food from a Portsmouth convenience store.

A Portsmouth judge ordered Mitchell to Eastern State Hospital for mental health treatment two times. A state investigation revealed the second order on July 31, 2015 made it to the hospital admission coordinator, but she never placed Mitchell on the waiting list.

The lawsuit filed by Mitchell's aunt, Roxanne Adams, names about 40 defendants, including the jail, the jail's health care provider, doctors, nurses and more than 20 jail employees.

The 115 page document describes the way his family says Mitchell was treated in the jail.

The lawsuit includes descriptions from other inmates on how Mitchell was treated. One inmate said guards treated Mitchell "like a circus animal," and dragged him, naked, out of his cell. At times, Mitchell was forced to the ground, sprayed with mace and beaten by correction officers, according to the lawsuit.

In addition to physical and verbal abuse, the lawsuit cites how correctional officers denied Mitchell food and ignored his horrific living conditions. An inmate estimated Mitchell would sometimes only receive one meal over several days.

Aside from his treatment, the lawsuit says Mitchell's health providers didn't perform all the necessary checkups and when they did, the checkups were not completed. The lawsuit says the jail's mental health director had almost daily contact with Mitchell and could have witnessed his deterioration, but took no action.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, seeks $60 million in damages.

Additionally, the Portsmouth Commonwealth Attorney's Office told News 3 that they have requested that Virginia State Police conduct a criminal investigation into Mitchell's death.

Click here to read a statement from the attorney for Hampton Roads Regional Jail. In it, the jail denies the allegations made against the jail and its employees.