An autopsy of a seventeen-year-old found dead at the Durham County Detention Facility in March reached the same conclusion as the Sheriff's Office: Uniece "Niecey" Fennell committed suicide. The autopsy, released Thursday by the Office of the State Medical Examiner, says Fennell died of asphyxia due to hanging.
Fennell's family, however, denies the narrative that Fennell, depressed over the murder of her twin brother in November, chose to take her own life. Her mother, Julia Graves, questions why her daughter had bruises on her arms, what appeared to be a broken nose, a cut below her eye, and scratches on her hands.
The state's autopsy describes none of these injuries. The family has had a second autopsy performed.
Fennell was found dead in a cell at the jail at about three a.m. on March 23. The Sheriff's Office says she committed suicide by hanging herself with a sheet tied to a bar on the window in her cell. At the request of the Sheriff's Office, her death is being investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation. Graves says her daughter had been harassed by two guards at the jail. The teen's attorney filed a complaint on Fennell's behalf the day before she died.
"Niecey was young [and] being guarded by individuals who lack skills, I'm assuming, since they work in an adult facility and most definitely abused their Authority position," Graves said in a statement after her daughter's death. "It alarms me that she died 24 hours after her attorney filed a complaint in seeking help. I want an independent fit investigation. I don't trust the Detention Center or the police as to date they both have conflicting reports about my child's death."
Fennell was jailed last summer after being charged with the murder of a nineteen-year-old. Her friends and family say she was not a murderer but was threatened and forced to go along on the July 10 drive-by shooting. According to the autopsy report, Fennell "reported a history of depression" following the death of her brother, Demoraea Fennell. Her mother, who spoke to Fennell by phone the day before her death, denies this.
"If that was the case, why wasn't she put on suicide watch?" Graves asks. "If that was the case, why would she wait five months to kill herself?"
This article appeared in print with the headline "+SUICIDE WATCH."