13 Investigates: 4 inmate deaths counted at Harris County jail in the month of January

Sarah Rafique Image
Wednesday, February 1, 2023
4th inmate death recorded at Harris County Jail this month
A day after 13 Investigates uncovered a third inmate death behind jail walls, there's word of a fourth, reported on the final day of the month.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A fourth inmate has died inside of the Harris County Jail this month.

On Tuesday, 13 Investigates confirmed with family members that Kevin Smith died while in custody at the jail.

The 23-year-old was facing a sexual abuse of a child charge that was filed in July 2022. However, his mom, Tracy Woodson-Smith, said the case continued to get reset.

Smith was due back in court later this week for a bond hearing. Woodson-Smith said she believed the charge would have eventually been dropped.

Smith had a 2-year-old daughter, Ka'Nayaa.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Harris County Sheriff's Office said Smith suffered "an apparent medical emergency" while at jail.

"(He) was taken to the jail clinic, where he was seen by Harris Health medical staff, at approximately 10:40 a.m. He was then taken to the hospital by ambulance, and was pronounced deceased at the hospital at approximately 11:25 a.m.," according to the statement. "Smith had no obvious physical injuries."

Woodson-Smith said her son had no previous medical conditions.

"I need to see my baby, to see if he had any marks on him," she told 13 Investigates. "People look at it like it's just an inmate, but at the end of the day everyone is human. He's a number to you, but that's my baby."

Woodson-Smith said she didn't learn about Smith's death from the jail. She learned about it from another inmate who wanted to make sure she knew what was happening inside the jail.

"(That inmate) told his mom, she translated to me that Kevin looked like he was already dead before he left the county jail," she said.

State law requires all jail deaths to be investigated by an outside agency. In this case, the Houston Police Department is conducting a death investigation.

"The Sheriff's Office Internal Affairs Division is also investigating to determine whether all applicable policies and procedures were followed, which is standard following the death of an inmate," HCSO said in a statement. "The man's cause of death will be determined by an autopsy conducted by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences."

Smith is the nephew of another inmate, Gary Wayne Smith, who died a few weeks ago.

The jail says 59-year-old Smith, who was booked on Dec. 6, 2022, was in jail on a parole violation and had "numerous medical conditions."

"On Jan. 10, 2023, while housed in a single-cell in the infirmary, a medication nurse was unable to wake (Smith). Medical staff responded, started CPR, and transported (Smith) to the clinic," according to the county.

Smith died that day.

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

The jail is currently under scrutiny by the state for failing to comply with at least two jail standards, including not booking inmates within 48 hours and not providing an inmate with life-saving medication.

SEE ALSO: State calls out jail after 28-year-old diabetic Harris County inmate dies

In 2022, 28 inmates died in HCSO's custody, including 25 under the jail's care.

It was the highest number of annual inmate deaths in a decade. The jail's population was also the highest it has been in a decade, with more than 10,000 inmates, including even more individuals who have been charged with crimes but are housed in facilities in Louisiana and west Texas.

If the pace of inmate deaths this year continues, the jail is on track to exceed the number of deaths it had last year.

In addition to Kevin Smith and his uncle Gary Smith, Jacoby Pillow, 31, and Rajdeep Singh Bains, 41, also died while in the Harris County Jail's custody this month.

Bains was booked into jail on Dec. 3, 2022, on a family violence charge and died on Jan. 11, 2023.

He had "a history of numerous medical problems when he was booked into jail," according to a custodial death report the county submitted to the Texas Attorney General last week.

The report says he was transported to a local hospital on Jan. 4 for "altered mental status" and was intubated five days later.

"On Jan. 11, 2023, a neurological test was performed on (Bains), and it was determined he had no brain activity. At 3:18 p.m., a medical doctor pronounced death," the report says.

SEE ALSO: Inmate who was in process of bonding out was found unresponsive in Harris County jail, officials say

Pillow was arrested on Jan. 1 on a misdemeanor trespassing charge. Records show he was given a $100 bond and was released when he reportedly assaulted a detention officer, resulting in an additional charge that was accepted by the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

Jail staff used force to restrain Pillow to regain control, according to a release from the sheriff's office.

He was evaluated and cleared to return to a cell.

Later, a jail employee was making rounds when he saw Pillow unresponsive in his cell. Medical staff tried to revive Pillow and called for an ambulance. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 9:12 a.m.

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