Mother of Harris County inmate who died in custody questions what happened: 'We just need to know'

Jessica Willey Image
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Still no answers more than 1 year after Harris County inmate's death
It's been more than a year since Evan Lee died while in custody at the Harris Count jail. His mother has been fighting to uncover what happened, but recently got an email the count

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- It's been 425 days since Evan Lee died while in the custody of the Harris County jail, and yet, his mother tells 13 Investigates she is no closer to learning what happened to him than the day he died in March 2022.

Now, his mother is pushing for information.

"I just (want to) know finally what happened," Jacilet Griffin said as she sat next to a life-sized photo of her son at her home in Missouri City. "It's been over a year; 425 days since his death."

According to the Harris County Sheriff's Office, Lee was involved in a fight after he was jailed for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. A week later, he complained of an illness and was taken to the hospital. He had severe head trauma, his mother said, and four days later, he died.

SEE ALSO: 13 Investigates: Decade-high inmate deaths just one concern at Harris Co. jail

Per protocol, the Texas Rangers started an investigation. In December, Lee's death was ruled as a homicide, and that is all the information Griffin says she has gotten. She wants the completed autopsy report.

"We just need to know the story, exactly what happened," Griffin said.

Griffin has formally requested the report from the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, and in February, she thought she was on the verge of receiving it. Then, last week, she got an email informing her the county is fighting its release, citing a common argument: the law enforcement exception.

"Why are they holding this? It makes me feel like something happened intentionally, and they're hiding, or is it their process to just hide from the families what's going on?" Griffin asked.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences did not respond to a 13 Investigates request for comment, and a DPS spokesperson said an update on the Texas Rangers investigation would not be available until Wednesday.

SEE ALSO: 32-year-old dies after asking for medical help in Harris County Jail, sheriff's office says

Meantime, Griffin spends her days advocating for better care at the Harris County jail and pushing House Bill 3434, which would greenlight a comprehensive study of jail issues.

A record of 27 inmates died in custody in 2022. There have been six deaths so far this year. All of her fight is for Evan, Griffin says, and the others.

"I just think it's unacceptable for any family to just endure and wait what has happened to their loved one," she said.

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