homepage logo

Authorities looking into man’s death at the Lee County Jail

By Staff | Dec 10, 2009

An investigation into how a Lee County Jail inmate died a few days after receiving minor injuries in a car crash continues.
James Gregory Kindred, 45, of the 1100 block of South Gifford Avenue, Lehigh Acres, was pronounced dead Monday, about a day after being taken from the jail to Gulf Coast Hospital in Fort Myers, said Sgt. David Velez of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
Kindred was booked into jail early Friday morning after doctors at a Lee County hospital cleared him medically following the late Thursday night crash in the 100 block of Alabama Road in Lehigh Acres, Velez said. Kindred was placed in a regular unit of the jail.
Just after midnight Sunday, jail medical staff determined that Kindred needed to go back to the hospital and he was transported at about 5 a.m. to Gulf Coast. He died early the next day.
Velez said the events leading up to Kindred’s death remain under investigation, and he had not been notified by the medical examiner on a cause of death as of Wednesday morning.
Velez could not confirm or deny whether any chemical or physical force was used on Kindred while he was in jail.
According to Kindred’s arrest report:
Late Thursday, deputies were sent to a roll-over crash. The investigation showed the driver had been assisted by people who pushed his vehicle, a Pontiac Vibe, back onto its wheels. They declined to give statements or their names to deputies and left.
The Vibe traveling south on Alabama, crossed into the north lanes, the driver overcorrected sending the car into a broadside slide. It crossed back into the southbound lanes sliding sideways, went off the road, struck a mailbox, continued on into a telephone box and the tires dug into the ground causing the car to flip. The deputy saw empty beer cans in the car.
Deputies talked with Kindred while he was being treated at the hospital.
The attending doctor said Kindred’s blood alcohol level was 0.294. In Florida, 0.08 and above is considered driving while intoxicated.
Kindred has a lengthy arrest record in Lee County, including a charge for DUI in February 1986.
This is the third in-custody death this year at Lee County jails. A man committed suicide and a woman died from natural causes, said Tony Schall, a sheriff’s office spokesman.
“A fourth death remains under investigation, although at this point it had been determined it was not an in-custody death,” he said Wednesday.
Nicholas Christie, 62, died March 31, after he was restrained and pepper sprayed in the downtown Fort Myers jail. Christie, a retired boilermaker visiting family in Naples, was taking medication for anxiety.
Christie ended up in the jail after a March 27 arrest for trespassing at a North Fort Myers hotel. He had also been arrested two days earlier for disorderly intoxication and causing a disturbance.
Nicholas DiCello, an attorney for Christie’s widow, said the Girard, Ohio, man was visiting his brother in Naples when he stopped taking his anti-anxiety medication. He was kicked out of the home and ended up at the North Fort Myers hotel.
The state’s medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.
Christie’s heart failed from the shock of the pepper spray, Medical Examiner Dr. Robert Pfalzgraf concluded in an autopsy. By the time his heart was beating again, his brain had gone too long without oxygen.
DiCello said Wednesday that Christie was brain-dead upon arrival at the hospital and remained on life support for a couple of days before his family made the decision to withdraw that support, based upon his wishes of that of his wife, Joyce.
DiCello remains concerned that the deputies involved in using the pepper spray on Christie while he was strapped to a chair for six hours were not placed on leave like other deputies who have to use deadly force on a suspect.
DiCello said Wednesday that he is concerned about the lack of documentary evidence he has been able to get from legal authorities.
“Nick Christie died basically nine months ago,” he said. “It was ruled a homicide within days of his death.”
DiCello filed a notice of intent to sue civilly within the past two months. If the county does not take action or denies it within six months, he can continue on with a lawsuit.
The U.S. Attorney has received the FBI’s investigation on behalf of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division inquiry into Christie’s death, DiCello said. State Attorney Steve Russell’s office has received the Lee County Sheriff’s Office investigation.
“They won’t release any documents … because of the ongoing criminal investigation,” he said. “I’m doing what I need to do to preserve her (Christie’s wife’s) rights.”
State Attorney’s spokeswoman Samantha Syoen said the case is still under review.
Lee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman John Sheehan said Wednesday that the investigation continues.

E-mail Valli Finney at vallimfinney@yahoo.com.