Chappell family presses for answers


BROWNSTOWN — The family of a Louisville, Kentucky, woman who died while in the custody of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in July 2021 took their demands for justice for her death to the county commissioners Tuesday morning.

“I’m pretty sure every one of you up there have children,” LaVita McClain said while addressing commissioners about the death of her daughter, Ta’Neasha Chappell.

She said if the child had been one of theirs, she didn’t expect they would be as calm as her.

“That was a human life, and dogs get treated better than she got treated,” McClain said.

Chappell, who was 23 years old, died July 16 at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, where she had been taken after becoming ill the day before while housed at the jail in Brownstown.

Chappell’s death was investigated by the Indiana State Police.

After reviewing that case, Jackson County Prosecutor Jeff Chalfant issued a statement in December that her death did not occur because of any crimes committed by inmates or employees at the jail.

At that time, Chalfant said the results of the autopsy showed the manner of Chappell’s death as undetermined. A toxicologist listed the cause of death as probable toxicity but couldn’t determine the substance, so her cause of death remains undetermined.

In October, Chappell’s family filed a $30 million lawsuit against Sheriff Rick Meyer and eight jail staffers in connection with her care leading up to the time of her death. Attorney Sam Aguiar of Louisville filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on behalf of McClain.

Because of the lawsuit, Commissioner Drew Markel said commissioners could not comment on the case.

“We legally can’t discuss the issue, not that it won’t be discussed or should not be discussed in some point in time,” he said.

“You can still show you’re human,” Chappell’s sister, Ronesha Murrell, said.

Commissioners President Matt Reedy agreed with Markel but did speak briefly to McClain and Murrell.

“I do want to tell you personally that I have been praying for you guys,” Reedy said.

McClain said she still wants to know why her daughter went into the jail in good health and came home in a body bag.

Chappell’s mother and sister were joined by more than a couple of dozen family members and friends. Many of those spoke about Chappell’s death and asked for justice.

Maxwell Mitchell was one of them. He played a video showing of Chappell asking for help 14 times in the hours leading up to her death at Schneck.

“You don’t have to even talk about the case to agree that is negligence,” he said.

Maxwell said Chappell should have received attention after the first call for help.

Many of the speakers contended her death was negligence and questioned why Meyer and the staff on duty at the jail in the period before her death were still on the job.

Cody George, who lives in Jackson County, said he had the pleasure of meeting with Chappell’s family after her death.

He said it just broke his heart how grateful they were because there was nobody in this community speaking up for them.

George said Chappell’s family has been so patient since her death.

“They have done everything you’re supposed to do, but what point do they get justice?” he said. “At what point can they know who was responsible for the death of their child, mother, sister, aunt, cousin?”

George also questioned how the county prosecutor was allowed to rule on a case involving the county.

Many of those present said they planned to keep pushing for answers and plan to return to commissioners meetings in the future until the family receives justice.

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