Jul. 27—The family of an Aiken man says they have unanswered questions after the death of 44-year-old Jeremy Ray Kelley last week at the Trenton Correctional Institution in Edgefield County.
Kelley's sister, Rhonda Rice, said she and her mother were notified of his passing on the morning of Tuesday, July 20.
"My mother and I were called by the chaplain on Tuesday morning around 8:30, saying that they found him unresponsive and they did everything they could to resuscitate him," Rice said. "They said they did CPR and nothing could be done."
Kelley's mother, Beverly Pilz, said she received a call from an inmate in the same unit that day, who expressed concern about Kelley's need for medical attention the morning of his death.
Kelley's family was told that his body was sent to Newberry for an autopsy to establish a cause of death, Rice said.
Following initial autopsy, Kelley's body was released to an Aiken funeral home. Rice said that's when concerns arose about some wounds on Kelley's body.
"There's no way to miss it, his face is black and blue," Pilz said. "His face is a mess, his lips are busted — and they never mentioned anything being wrong with the body."
"Nothing is adding up to what the prison is telling us," Rice said. "With the information we have, this is something bigger."
The Edgefield County coroner, David Burnett, confirmed the death Monday.
Burnett said there were no apparent wounds on the body.
Chrysti Shain, director of communications at S.C. Department of Corrections, said Monday that the department is investigating the death.
"There were no obvious signs of trauma, but we're awaiting the results of the autopsy and toxicology," Shain said.
Shain said "officers performed CPR, mouth-to-mouth recitation and used the AED on him in addition to calling EMS" when they found him Tuesday morning.
Pilz said she is concerned that her son was in need of medical attention before officers responded.
"It's the neglect part," she said. "I just want to lay down and grieve my son. I want them to say he just had a heart attack or they couldn't find anything wrong with him and God just wanted him home. But we can't stop now, there's no way that he just died."
Shain confirmed there was one officer in the living unit, but said "when something happens, other officers come and help respond, it's not just the one person."
Pilz said she won't stop looking for answers.
"I don't want to hear that my son was murdered or neglected," she said. "This is the last thing I wanted to know, but now I don't have a choice. It's just hit me left and right, and I've got to do something about it."