'Tore me mentally': Grieving mom calls for change after Harris Co. inmate's death ruled a homicide

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Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Grieving mom calls for change after HCSO inmate death ruled a homicide
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A grieving family is calling for changes after learning their loved one's death was ruled a homicide nearly nine months after the incident at the Harris County jail.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A grieving family is calling for changes to the Harris County Jail after learning their loved one's death was ruled a homicide.

Jacilet Lee clutched a photo of her son, Evan Lee, just feet away from the place where he was once housed.

"My concern is not only for Evan but every single inmate that may be housed here," Lee explained.

Nearly nine months ago, Jacilet Lee's son died while in custody at the Harris County Jail. It wasn't until late last week, she learned from the medical examiner's office his death was ruled a homicide.

"It really, really tore me mentally first of all," Jacilet Lee recalled. "Just to know that someone else is involved."

This is a story ABC13 broke in March and has continued to investigate.

RELATED: 'Harris County jail has failed': Mom wants answers after inmate son was put on life support

The Harris County Sheriff's Office said Evan Lee was involved in a fight. A week later, he complained of an illness, similar to food poisoning.

He was rushed to the hospital and died just days later. An investigation is underway by the Texas Rangers, but they aren't able to provide any more information.

"I just understand that they're understaffed and underfunded," Jacilet Lee said. "I'm really hoping and praying they're able to fund this facility whereas whatever reasons they're using it for, or it should be shut down."

The mourning mother said she'd like to see better communication. The sheriff's office said a day after Evan Lee was brought to the hospital, an advocate contacted the family. His mother said by the time she was allowed to see her son he was already dead.

"It was horrible that I was not able to do anything to help him," Jacilet Lee recalled. "I feel like I could've been able to see him before he was considered deceased."

13 Investigates found 25 inmates have died so far while in custody in 2022. In 2021, 20 inmates were reported dead, and 15 were reported in 2020. This year's total is the highest in at least a decade.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez met with county leaders this summer because of overcrowding at the jail.

The county agreed to spend $25 million to ship inmates to west Texas.

RELATED: Family of inmate who died while in custody ask for answers after manner of death ruled as homicide

Gonzalez also said it would help if judges worked nights and weekends to lower case backlogs.

"Something needs to be done about the Harris County jail," Attorney Randall Kallinen said. "It shouldn't be a death sentence."

Lee's family is working with Kallinen, but no lawsuit has been filed. They're waiting on investigation and autopsy reports to be released.

"It's 2022, and no family should have to experience what we had to experience," Jacilet Lee said. Which is why they'd like to see changes to help lower the number of inmate deaths.

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