No charges sought after 2015 death of mentally ill Hampton Roads Regional Jail inmate

Posted at 9:07 AM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 17:50:41-05

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - The Portsmouth Commonwealth's Attorney announced in a letter Wednesday that her office won't be pursuing criminal charges in the Jamycheal Mitchell case.

Mitchell, who was 24, died at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in 2015. He had been at the jail for about four months after he was arrested for stealing about $5 worth of snacks from a convenience store.

At the time of his death, his family said he was unrecognizable and said the jail and that others could've done more to save him. Mitchell suffered from mental health problems. He died of heart problems and wasting syndrome, according to the Medical Examiner's Office.

Jamycheal Mitchell

For the past few years, Commonwealth's Attorney Stephanie Morales has been looking into Mitchell's death, but says at this point she can't move forward with a criminal case. "We are still missing a great deal of information that would make clear whether probable cause exists to charge specific persons for specific events and whether an affirmative defense applies," she said.

On Wednesday, Morales released a 166-page report detailing her investigative efforts, including talking with inmates, corrections officers, and others. Still, she says she was not able to interview eight key witnesses from NaphCare, the medical service provider at the jail.

"Eight witnesses who we need for this investigation still have not been made available to us, including some very material witnesses who would have shed a lot of light on the situation to let us know what happened," she said in an interview with News 3.

NaphCare didn't respond to a phone call requesting comment on Wednesday.

Morales says her office needs more investigative tools in a case like this and is asking the General Assembly to give her more powers. She also wants to see changes in how the mentally ill are treated. "It's not just about making the information available. It's about a call for change that we can use every tool that we have available to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else," she said.

Morales says charges could be possible in the future if new information comes to light. "I am beyond frustrated anytime I'm not able to get information to get justice for anyone," she said.

After Mitchell's death, an investigation by a state health agency revealed a series of missteps in getting Mitchell proper mental health treatment.

To see the full report from the Portsmouth Commonwealth's Attorney office, click here. 

The Portsmouth chapter of the NAACP said that they will release a statement after reviewing the report.

Click here for our full coverage on Jamycheal Mitchell’s death