After investigators in court today described the bloody jail-cell scene that led them to charge Muscogee inmate Jeffrey McKinney with murder in the death of Issac Kindred, Kinney’s family gathered outside the courtroom to talk about their struggle to get him mental health care.
Relatives said the 25-year-old has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and at times is too out of touch with reality to make rational decisions. They’ve been trying to get him into treatment, but have been told that as an adult, he must commit himself to a facility, but he doesn’t realize he is ill, they said.
McKinney now will face a felony murder charge in Superior Court after Municipal Court Judge Steven Smith found probable cause to pursue his prosecution in the fatal assault on Kindred, 57, who died from strangulation and head wounds, according to autopsy results.
Authorities said corrections officers were conducting a head count of jail inmates about 10:30 p.m. Friday when they saw water flowing from beneath the door of the cell McKinney and Kindred shared. Investigators did not say where the water was coming from, but the cell had a sink and toilet, and inmates sometimes clog those to draw attention.
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The officers went in, removed Kinney and saw Kindred’s legs protruding from beneath a bunk, authorities said. When they pulled him out, they found a shirt and towel over his face. Removing the fabrics revealed Kindred’s face was covered in blood. His chest was still warm but he was unresponsive, they said.
The jail medical staff gave Kindred cardiopulmonary resuscitation to try to revive him, they said.
Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan said Kindred was pronounced dead at 12:25 a.m. in his fourth-floor cell. He had cuts on his head and face, the coroner said.
Kindred had been jailed since May on charges of stealing a lawnmower, according to testimony in Columbus Recorders Court. He was held without bond because of his criminal history.
McKinney was jailed Oct. 25 on charges of aggravated assault, burglary, third-degree cruelty to children, peeping tom and stalking.
His mother Marcia Johnson said those charges resulted from her son’s becoming fixated on a woman he was giving money and assumed was his girlfriend, though his feelings were not reciprocated.
“I’ve been trying to get him help for years now,” the mother said. His illness has worsened as he aged, she said, describing episodes in which he disappeared for days, and later was found to have been staying in vacant houses infested with pests.
He often was unable to sleep, and wandered through the night, relatives said: Sometimes he sat alone and talked to himself; sometimes he heard voices; sometimes he lost control and yelled at people. He occasionally stopped caring for himself, going days without bathing, they said.
The National Institute of Mental Health gives this description of such symptoms: "People with the disorder may hear voices other people don't hear. They may believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. This can terrify people with the illness and make them withdrawn or extremely agitated."
Kinney's mother said this latest incident has left her feeling “hurt and scared and worried about my child’s life,” and she wondered how it happened without anyone intervening. “Somebody had to hear something,” she said. “Where were the guards?”
Such questions may be answered by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which Sheriff John Darr has asked to investigate Kindred’s and two other deaths in the jail, all having occurred since Oct. 24.