CARUTHERSVILLE, Mo. — A Mid-South family is outraged. A man picked up for a child support warrant died while in custody, and there are no claims he was beaten or hurt. In fact, the man's relatives claim jailers didn't touch him enough. They said the jail refused to give him medical attention.
When police arrested Michael Robinson, 33, in the early morning of Aug. 14 on an outstanding child support charge, he looked healthy, according to his family. Twenty-four hours later he was hooked up to all kinds of machines and almost brain dead.
"His brain was swelling, and his eyes were full of fluid until I had to ask the doctors and nurses that were on call, please tape my brother's eyes up because they have popped out of his head," his sister Angela Wilson said.
His loved ones said Robinson, a severe diabetic, died because the Pemiscot County jail refused to give him the medical attention he needed.
"If your glucose level is 700, that's deadly. My brother's glucose level was 2500," his sister LaKeisha Robinson told WREG,
A death certificate shows Michael Robinson died from complications of diabetes. It states the manner of death as natural.
However, his family thinks it's more. They're pressing for criminal charges against jail employees.
"When I got into the visiting area, he had his head laid down on the table and couldn't hold his head up. He was disoriented, jaws sunk in, eyes glazed over," Robinson's fiancee Clara Clevenger said.
Clevenger said she told officers he needed insulin, but she claims they didn't believe her and thought he was just trying to get out of jail. They promised to monitor him.
One of the inmates who shared the cell block with Robinson backs the family's story
"He said his head was feeling real funny. Like he couldn't stay up or whatever," the former cellmate, who asked we not identify him, said. "They just kept on telling him he wasn't going anywhere because they were tired of his games."
The former inmate said Robinson didn't go anywhere until later that night. Where he was taken next is up for debate.
"He threw up everywhere on the floor. Just weak. So, they took him up out of there," the cellmate said. "He was curled up on the floor like a baby."
Robinson's family believes surveillance video from inside the jail shows Michael begging for help for more than a day as his organs shut down. WREG confirmed the Missouri Highway Patrol reviewed that video for possible criminal charges.
The preliminary result of the investigation is now in the hands of Pemiscot County Prosecuting Attorney Jereme Lytle. He didn't agree to an interview but sent us a statement:
Mr. Robinson's death is nothing short of tragic and our prayers go out to his family. Sheriff Greenwell initially requested the Missouri State Highway Patrol conduct an investigation regarding the circumstances of Mr. Robinson's death. Since then, the Patrol has provided us with a preliminary report and it is currently being reviewed; however, we will not make any charging decisions until we have reviewed the final report. We are sensitive to the community's concerns, but any decision should not be hastily made.
You may send any requests to our office, though we cannot share much information at this time. We must first determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed. Please give us some time to receive and review the final report.
Meanwhile, Pemiscot County Sheriff Tommy Greenwell refused to answer questions about how his jail handled Robinson.
WREG found out he terminated one employee and made one of the jail nurses a private contractor. The sheriff won't say why and denied WREG's public information request to see the surveillance video from inside the jail.
"We've got to demand that video," the Robinson family's attorney, Ben Crump, said. "As it has been described to us, it is so shocking you would say, you wouldn't treat a dog this bad."
Crump and Robinson's family met with the Highway Patrol. Crump was also the lawyer for the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.
"This is still America, you don't get the right to pass the death sentence on people for child support," Crump said.
Crump said Robinson might be alive today if the officers simply called 911. An ambulance company is right across the street from the jail. It upsets his sisters that help was so close by.
"You can walk. You can holler. You can yell and say you need some help. That's how close it is," Wilson said.
Robinson's family said the jail should have been particularly sensitive to inmates needing medical attention.
A memorial for another 33-year-old man, David Hamm, sits across the street from the justice complex. Hamm died in the jail just two weeks before Robinson; an autopsy shows he died from natural causes.
Robinson's family is told his autopsy is not available yet.