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ISP investigating death of inmate

STARKE COUNTY, Ind. -- A family is searching for answers after their son and brother died as a Starke County Jail inmate over the weekend. The Indiana State Police are currently investigating what happened.

41-year-old Steven Richie was arrested Friday evening for driving while suspended with a warrant out of Marshall County for resisting law enforcement.

When he was booked into the Starke County Justice Center, he had no idea it would become the place he took his last breath.

“I could visit him here, but I can’t visit him in the graveyard," said his mother, Louise Richie.

This family wants what the justice center promises.

“I just want justice to be done for my son," said Louise.

The Starke County coroner says her son, Steven, was officially pronounced dead at Starke Hospital around 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

The sheriff says he had been arrested Friday evening around 6 p.m., and according to jail logs, he was booked into the Starke County Jail around 9 p.m.

 “I always would say that I pray that you would go to jail, and that don’t sound. I looked at this place here as a house of mercy, a house where they can find help," said Steven's father, James Richie.

He also serves as a local pastors who counsels addicts in the Starke and Pulaski county jails.

However, he says he doesn't feel that way anymore.

While being processed at the Starke County Jail, Indiana State Police say Richie removed a clear plastic baggie with an unknown white chalky substance from his pants pocket and put it in his mouth.

Jail staff members tried to prevent Richie from swallowing the substance, but they weren't able to do so.

They took him to Starke Hospital, where medical staff cleared him to return to the jail.

ISP says after he was booked, jail staff members kept a close eye on Richie.

After becoming concerned about his erratic behavior, jail guards and a North Judson Police officer attempted to get Richie from his cell to go back to the hospital, when he became lethargic.

They said his breathing became shallow, then stopped.

Steven's uncle, Chris McCurdy was in jail at the time and claims he heard everything.

“They were kicking the doors for at least an hour if not longer, trying to get him to wake up. Instead of opening the door and going inside to check him," said McCurdy.

The sheriff says typically when they put an inmate under observation, a guard should be checking on them about every 15 minutes.

ISP says when Steven stopped breathing, jail staff members immediately attempted resuscitation and called an ambulance.

He was transported to the hospital but was pronounced dead at IU Hospital.

“The hospital may have dropped the ball by releasing him, but they also dropped the ball by letting him lay in there and not taking care of his needs," said Steven's sister, Mary Shepherd.

“It didn’t have to go this far, and now I have to bury my son on Thursday," said Steven's mother.

The Starke County coroner is waiting on toxicology results before releasing a cause of death, which could take a few weeks.

ABC 57 reached out to Starke Hospital in an effort to find out what happened when Steven was booked the first time, but a spokesperson has not yet called back.

In the meantime, the sheriff says they're preserving evidence like the surveillance footage from the jail for ISP's investigation.


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