On the last day of their county fair this weekend, Neshoba County residents in Mississippi got some unexpected news. A cellmate had been charged with the murder of a Native American man who died in a county jail cell last month.
Sheriff Tommy Waddell says 34-year-old Justyn Schlegel has been charged with the murder of Rexdale Wayne Henry, a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, who was found dead on July 14th.
“It was another inmate who was in the cell him at the time of his death. He remains in custody and is charged with murder,” Waddell said, according to The Clarion-Ledger.
But Henry’s family and friends say there are still questions that need to be answered. Henry was jailed for failing to pay old fines.
“We’re waiting to hear what the state has to say because they still have to prove that this man is the one that killed him,” said Janis McDonald, Syracuse University law professor and co-director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative, a project that revisits civil rights-era murder cases that remain unsolved.
Local officials declined to provide more details beyond saying the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations is now the lead agency in this investigation.
Henry was reportedly found with two broken ribs, according to his friends and family who sought a second autopsy. Official state autopsy results have not been released.
Henry was found dead in his jail cell a day after Sandra Bland was found dead in a Texas jail cell, two cases that have shed a national spotlight on jailhouse deaths and the problems of pre-trial detention.
“I don’t understand why it took so long from the time that they found Mr. Henry dead in his cell to the time they charged a cell mate for his murder. They were locked up together, why would it take 16 days?” asked McDonald.
“Those are the questions the family needs to know,” said McDonald.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said the investigation is ongoing.