Family Questions Suicide Finding In County Jail Death

11:46 PM, Feb 15, 2011   |    comments
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ROCKVILLE, Md. (WUSA) -- The family of 21-year-old prisoner Vincent Peppins rejects the state finding that he committed suicide last month in the Montgomery County Detention Center here, and is asking for an independent investigation of his death.

"We began a very thorough investigation, made a determination that there was no foul play in this death," said Montgomery County Police Spokeswoman Lucille Baur.

Peppins was arrested On January 13th after a traffic stop in the county police department's District Four, which includes parts of Silver Spring, Wheaton, Aspen Hill, and Olney. Although he was not driving, police say he ran from the scene, causing them to give chase and apprehend him. It was then determined, police say, that Peppins was wanted on two outstanding warrants in Frederick and St. Mary's counties on auto theft charges.

After being processed, Peppins was jailed, apparently being assigned to a cell which was empty because a fellow prisoner was in the infirmary following a pepper spray incident that caused the facility to be on a heightened-security lockdown.

"It was told to the family that your son left that cell, took a sheet with him, hid it in his clothes, went down to the shower and hung himself. It's not credible. It's not credible," said family attorney Bobby Henry.

"How is it if your facility is locked down, a detainee is allowed to wander aimlessly through your facility? Something is wrong,"said Henry in an interview with 9News Now.

"We don't know if he was indeed attempting to take his own life at the moment the institution was in lockdown. I can tell you one thing: he never wandered around during lockdown," said the Director of Montgomery County's Correction and Rehabilitation Department, Arthur Wallenstein.

"We watch people very carefully. When a person wants to take their own life, they're going to find a way to do so," Wallenstein said.

"The family is free to have whatever beliefs it wishes. We share in their grief, so I am not in any way going to debate the family.

"This young man, unfortunately, after learning that he had finally been caught and had charges in several counties for auto theft, his world caved in on him. He was now in custody and was going to have to go from county to county to stand trial.(He) obviously decided, for his own reasons, to take his own life," Wallenstein said.

Peppins' parents do not believe he killed himself. "It was like a hole in my soul, a hole in my body. I could not believe it. I couldn't even catch my breath, and I was going 'not my son.' He was happy, had a happy spirit about him," said Sheila Peppins, his mother.

"When they came down and told me that they had picked up my son, I was kind of joyous because they had him and he was going to face whatever charges they had against him.

"And before that could happen, they pulled the rug right from under me, telling me that he hung himself and I know he didn't do that," said Vincent Pippins, Sr.

The family wants an independent investigation of Vincent's death by either the federal government or the state police.

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