Man accused in mutilation death dies in jail

December 8, 2008 4:27:47 AM PST
A Tyler man who was accused of the kidnapping and mutilation death of his girlfriend earlier this year died Sunday after being found unresponsive in his jail cell. Smith County Justice of the Peace James Meredith ordered an autopsy for Christopher McCuin, who was pronounced dead after being taken from the Smith County Jail to East Texas Medical Center.

Smith County Chief Deputy Gary Pinkerton said they do not believe McCuin's death was suspicious, noting he was in a jail by himself. Meredith also said foul play wasn't suspected.

The death is being investigated by the Texas Rangers.

McCuin, 26, was charged with capital murder in January in the death of 21-year-old Jana Shearer, of Whitehouse. Police said they found an ear boiling in a pot on a stovetop at the crime scene, and a hunk of flesh on a plate and impaled on a fork at the kitchen table. Authorities say it was unclear whether McCuin consumed any part of the woman's body.

Amy Gage, a friend and neighbor of Shearer's, said friends and family have mixed emotions over McCuin's death.

"Part of you is wanting to see him stand trial for what he did and have his day in court, the other part of you is basically relieved because he will never be able to hurt anyone again," Gage said in Sunday's online edition of the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

"We've all been worried about her mother having to go through everything again in court. You don't want her to have to deal with it, but I guess God stepped in and took over. It's kind of a relief," she said. "I feel bad for his family."

McCuin had been indicted in February in Shearer's Jan. 4 death and was being held on $2 million bond.

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