Jail inmate’s death ruled a suicide

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 23, 1999

FAYETTE -Suicide by hanging was the cause of death of Plaze Thomas Jr., an inmate who died at the Jefferson County Correctional Facility Saturday, according to State Medical Examiner Dr. Steve Hayne.

Deputy Coroner Bob Rollins said Hayne had notified Coroner Will Turner Sr. of the cause of death late Wednesday night, one day after Hayne performed an autopsy on Thomas.

Thomas’ visitation will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today in the chapel of Rollins Funeral Home in Fayette. His funeral will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at East Mount Olive Baptist Church in Red Lick, with burial in the church’s cemetery.

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Thomas, 39, of Fayette, was arrested by Fayette police Saturday afternoon on charges of on charges of unpaid fees, an expired tag, driving with a suspended license and driving recklessly.

Thomas had been jailed on similar charges a few times before, Jefferson County Sheriff Peter Walker said Thursday.

Between 8 and 9 p.m. Saturday, guards doing a routine check of the jail – which they conduct every 30 minutes – found Thomas hanging from a ceiling vent by a sheet.

Walker was out of town from Sunday until Thursday to be with his hospitalized mother. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Office personnel refused to answer questions about Thomas’ death. But on Thursday, Walker said he was satisfied with the way his office handled the situation.

On Tuesday, Thomas’ family members said they believe Thomas did not commit suicide.

&uot;I’ve known (Thomas’) family for years. They know I&160;have nothing to hide,&uot; Walker said. &uot;And there was an effort made to let the family know all that we could. I went to tell them as soon as I&160;got through at the jail that night.&uot;

Walker also said there is no truth to rumors that a jailer had beaten Thomas prior to his death.

Family members also said they were not allowed to see Thomas’ body until Tuesday morning at the funeral home, something Walker denies.

&uot;I went out there Saturday night,&uot;&160;said Thomas’ sister, Betty Hughes. &uot;He was still there, but they wouldn’t let me see him. They told me to go on home, that there was somebody speaking to my mother (at her home).&uot;

But Walker said, &uot;They did not get to the jail before the body was removed.&uot;

Like Thomas’ relatives, Walker said he does not know why Thomas would have committed suicide. &uot;I&160;would hate to speculate on that,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;The only way I&160;would know is if Plaze had told me himself.&uot;

Victoria &uot;Ann&uot; Hughes, one of Thomas’ sisters, said her family is at a loss for what to do next. &uot;We don’t have any other plans,&uot;&160;Hughes said. &uot;We’ll just go on and bury him.&uot;