Mentally ill man arrested for allegedly stealing $5, found dead in cell

A young black man arrested by police in Portsmouth, Virginiahas been found dead in his jail cell after spending almost four months behind bars — without bail — for stealing $5 worth of groceries.

Early Wednesday, Jamycheal Mitchell, who had mental health problems, was discovered lying on the floor of his cell by guards. Prison officials say his death is not being treated as suspicious.

“As of right now it is deemed ‘natural causes,’” said Natasha Perry, the master jail officer at the Hampton Roads regional jail in Portsmouth. Yet Portsmouth police are looking into the circumstances surrounding the death of the 24-year-old.

On April 22nd, Mitchell was accused of stealing a bottle of Mountain Dew, a Snickers bar and a Zebra Cake worth a total of $5 from a 7-Eleven. His family reportedly believes he starved to death after refusing meals and medication at the jail, where he was being held on misdemeanor charges of petty larceny and trespassing.

“His body failed,” said Roxanne Adams, Mitchell’s. “It is extraordinary. The person I saw deceased was not even the same person.” Adams, who is a registered nurse, said Mitchell had practically no muscle mass left and had lost about 65lbs by the time of his death.

Adams also shared in an interview that her nephew had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia for about five years. “He just chain-smoked and made people laugh,” she continued. “He never did anything serious, never harmed anybody.”

Even though Judge Morton Whitlow ruled Mitchell was not competent to stand trial and ordered that he be transferred to a state-run mental health facility in Williamsburg, the hospital said it had no vacancy. As a result, the young man remained in jail until his death.

“He was just deteriorating so fast,” she said. “I kept calling the jail, but they said they couldn’t transfer him because there were no available beds. So I called Eastern State, too, and people there said they didn’t know anything about the request or not having bed availability.”

The court clerk maintained that it was “hard to tell who’s responsible” for the glaring oversights in Mitchell’s case. Additionally, officials from the court, the police department and the jail had no explanation as to why Mitchell was not given the opportunity to be released on bail.