December 20, 2021

Chappell's sister vows to keep fighting after Jackson County prosecutor's report released

Devan Ridgway/WTIU

Devan Ridgway/WTIU
Patrick Beane

Ronesha Murrell doesn’t buy the Jackson County prosecutor’s explanation of her sister’s death in July while in custody at the county jail.

“This is a cover up,” Murrell said Monday.

Murrell’s sister, Ta’Neasha Chappell, fell ill in her jail cell on July 15. Chappell complained to jail staff multiple times about feeling sick and the next day they transported her to  Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, where she was pronounced dead.

Chappell was jailed following her arrest for leading police on a chase through three counties. She had been accused of stealing clothes from the Edinburgh Outlet Mall.

Jackson County prosecutor Jeffrey Chalfant released a report Thursday saying there was no evidence Chappell was “knowingly or intentionally killed by another person, whether a jail employee or fellow inmate, nor any evidence that her death was caused by a knowing or intentional act with the purpose to harm her.”

Murrell said the findings contradict what  fellow inmates said about how Chappell died.

“How do you justify closing a case on an inmate who died in their custody like it was nothing?” Murrell said. “She was in our custody, she was in our care, she was only 23, she went in happy and healthy and perfectly fine. To close the case conveniently with witnesses stating that she was poisoned, according to conversations, this is crazy.”

But, according to the report, toxicology tests on Chappell “did not reveal any positive findings of toxicological significance …” That included specific tests for anti-freeze, which emergency room personnel had “considered as a possible cause of Miss Chappell’s medical condition.”

The report also said Jackson County prosecutors and the Indiana State Police viewed surveillance footage of Chappell in jail, first when she was initially booked on May 26 and then all video she appeared in “during the relevant time frame until she left the jail on July 16, 2021.”

Murrell said she and family attorney Sam Aguiar have demanded to see the video surveillance but have been denied.

“They closed the case without even handing over the footage or even releasing the footage to the public, like my family or how her life didn't matter,” Murrell said. “It was like a slap in the face. It was disgusting.”

She said the video is expected to be released later this week.

“Hopefully, the world and the community can see how messed up they are, how messed up they did,” Murrell said. “So that's why I just keep pushing for that footage and to get that footage and keep pursuing justice.”

Aguiar has filed a $30 million civil lawsuit against the jail and staff members on behalf of Chappell’s family.

Murrell is hoping federal law enforcement gets involved with the case and is urging supporters of her cause to call and urge federal involvement.

She said there are plans for another rally in support of her sister. A rally on Nov. 16 outside the Jackson County Court House in Brownstown drew protest groups from Chappell’s hometown of Louisville and as far away as New York City.

“We're not we're not letting up, we're not giving up,” Murrell said. “The world knows that this is a coverup. The world knows this is not right, one plus one is not equaling two. So, we're gonna continue to fight.”

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