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Family of detainee questions sheriff’s statements in death

Published: Friday, June 1, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, June 1, 2012 3:54 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo provided)
Keith D. Renfroe Jr., of Cottage Grove, Minn.

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – An attorney representing the family of a 20-year-old Kane County Jail detainee who died said a sheriff’s detective told the family he had hanged himself – a statement he said officials are now backing away from.

Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez said he would not comment on the Renfroe family attorney’s assertions.

Keith D. Renfroe Jr., of Cottage Grove, Minn., was found unresponsive in his cell May 19 and taken to Delnor Hospital in Geneva, where he was removed from life support May 24.

Attorney Michael B. Padden said he is looking into confusing inconsistencies in statements made to family members.

“It’s not necessarily foul play, but information we received was contradictory,” Padden said. “A sheriff’s representative called Keith Renfroe Sr., and said, ‘Your son is almost dead at Delnor. He hanged himself in his cell.’ We are taking the position that he did not hang himself.”

Padden said a doctor and a nurse in the hospital told the family they were surprised with the conclusion that Renfroe hanged himself, because they said they did not see any evidence of hanging.

“The theme is they have one position on day one, and another position after that. It’s disconcerting,” Padden said.

Perez said Wednesday that corrections officers did not find Renfroe hanging; they found him unresponsive.

“We have never dealt with a situation quite like this; it’s a very unique circumstance,” Perez said.

On Thursday, Perez said the investigation should be completed before he would comment further.

“I expected these type of things to be said,” Perez said. “I’m not going to comment on anything this guy says. Let our investigation take its course. We are still gathering evidence as far as video surveillance tapes. We are also waiting for toxicology reports and the autopsy report. That is the final straw in the investigation.”

Padden said he hired an independent physician to attend the coroner’s autopsy May 25 and had an independent pathologist conduct a second autopsy Thursday.

“This is nothing against the coroner; they’ve been very cooperative with us, very accommodating,” Padden said. “I need to have solid information. [Renfroe] saw multiple doctors – a neurologist, an internist, a cardiologist – various subspecialties, and no one saw any evidence of hanging. … I’m speculating the coroner associated with the death investigation will find that he did not die from asphyxiation.”

Renfroe was arrested by Gilberts police on charges of felony trespass to a residence on May 18. He was being held on $15,000 bond and was to appear in court May 25 – the day after he was removed from life support.

According to court records, Renfroe entered a residence in the 200 block of Rockville Lane in Gilberts by breaking a front window, knowing that there were people in the house, and remained there, refusing to leave until police were called.

Gilberts police could not be reached for comment.

Padden said Renfroe was staying with an aunt and uncle who lived in Gilberts, about three miles from where he was arrested.

“He thought someone was chasing him,” Renfroe said. “He broke into a private home and waited until police arrived. They did not know each other. He was confused and ended up in the bathroom of the home. He did not go in with the intent to assault or commit a robbery.”

Padden said Renfroe did not have a history of mental illness and had come to Illinois to stay with relatives while seeking better job opportunities.

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