Family alleges foul play in inmate death - - Jackson, MS

Family alleges foul play in inmate death

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BRANDON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Roslyn Anderson - bio | email

BRANDON, MS (WLBT) – A Rankin County man died early last Wednesday while in jail.

Officials reported that he died from heart failure.

But family members say cuts and bruises on the disabled man's body tell a different story.

Joe Thornton says that his brother, 50 year old Ronnie Thornton, was beaten to death while in the custody at the Rankin County Detention Facility.

"He took a massive beating inside the jail," said Thornton.

Sheriff Ronnie Pennington said Ronnie Thornton was arrested Monday and was being held on a $3 million dollar bond for contempt of court, violating a protective court order involving a domestic situation.

"I was told by two different sources that he had taken a beating, that one of the officials had hit him in the head with a flashlight," said Thornton.

Joe Thornton, a medical technologist, took pictures of his brother's body at the funeral home.

"He had a large knot on his forehead with three lacerations," said the Brandon resident.

The pictures also show bruises and markings on his chin and neck, left thigh and left arm.

The grieving man told WLBT that Monday the sheriff's department allowed him to see video of his brother receiving CPR during which time he said the jailer was angrily cursing him.

He also said officials told him his brother fell two feet from his bed.

"He wasn't beaten in our jail. That's not true," said Sheriff Ronnie Pennington.

Rankin County's top law officer denied Thornton's allegations and said an investigation is underway.

"We found no evidence of the beating of his brother. He did pass away. The autopsy report showed he died of a heart attack. We are in the process of looking into some other things that Mr. Thornton brought up," said Sheriff Pennington.

Thornton also questions his brother's high misdemeanor bond, why the family wasn't allowed to see him while in custody and what he called other conflicts.

The Rankin County resident said his brother was disabled, had high blood pressure and on pain medication after three back surgeries.

Thornton said jail officials did not allow his brother to receive his medications while in custody.

He said Ronnie Thornton was going through a divorce and that his wife worked at the same firm that was handling the divorce.

Joe Thornton claimed that the firm Adams & Edens of Brandon also represents Rankin County and the Sheriff's Department.

The sheriff said he was not aware of the divorce and denied any wrongdoing.

Pennington said attorney Richard Lawrence represents the Rankin County Sheriff's Department and not Adams & Edens.

"My brother was a good man. He loved his family and I loved him, and I want the truth to come out. I don't want it just to be blown over as a heart attack when I know it wasn't," added Thornton.

Ronnie Thornton was buried Monday.

His family has sought legal counsel regarding the beating allegations.

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