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Investigators say detainee strangled himself with shirt

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – A 20-year-old detainee in the Kane County Jail likely died earlier this year from self-inflicted strangulation, according to the final report from an investigation conducted into the matter by the Kane County Sheriff’s Office.

Friday, the Kane County Sheriff’s Office released the report, which encapsulates the investigation of the death of Keith Renfroe Jr., of Cottage Grove, Minn., and recently of Gilberts.

The report states that correctional officers at the Kane County Adult Correctional Center found Renfroe unresponsive and lying face down in his jail cell with a shirt knotted around his neck shortly after 2 a.m. May 19.

Renfroe had been taken to the jail May 18, after Gilberts police officers discovered him hiding in the bathroom of a Gilberts residence he had broken into. Renfroe was charged with felony trespass to a residence and was being held on bond as he awaited a May 25 court appearance.

The report, which included narratives from two Kane County Sheriff’s Office investigators, stated Renfroe was being held in a cell at the time of the incident and was the only inmate in that particular cell group.

The report states video surveillance footage and other records kept by the jail indicated that correctional officers checked the cell “no less than every 15 minutes.”

The video footage does not show Renfroe within his cell.

When correctional officers discovered Renfroe lying unresponsive on the floor of his cell, they began CPR and continued until paramedics arrived. Renfroe then was taken to Delnor Hospital, where he was placed on life support. He was removed from life support and pronounced dead May 22.

Investigators said a search of the cell after Renfroe was taken to Delnor revealed no blood or vomit anywhere.

The report included notes from the Kane County Coroner’s Office, which concluded that the death is considered “a suicide by asphyxiation.”

The report does not claim Renfroe hanged himself.

Lab results on Renfroe’s blood also turned up no trace of intoxicating substances. The report indicated “that he had only cotinine in his system at the time of death.”

The report, however, also indicated that Renfroe told Gilberts Police that he had been drinking alcohol and smoking methamphetamine before he broke into the house.

Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez had no comment on the matter other than to note that the report was available and “the case is closed.”

Michael Padden, a Minnesota lawyer hired by Renfroe’s family, said doctors hired by the family to investigate Renfroe’s death question the sheriff’s account, particularly questioning how Renfroe could have strangled himself with his own shirt without hanging himself.

“If you try to do that, you’d pass out, and wouldn’t be able to continue to apply the pressure needed to asphyxiate yourself,” Padden said. “This is a really weird scenario they are laying out here. And we believe it to be completely lacking credibility.”

He said he has not yet received a copy of the sheriff’s office’s investigation report.

Padden noted the family is considering legal action against the sheriff’s office.

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