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 today by the Office of the State Medical Examiner, says Fennell died of asphyxia due to hanging.
Fennell's family, however, has denied that she would kill herself and has requested an independent investigation
as well as another autopsy.
"The markings and bruising remaining on her body show something different then a sheet being tied around her neck to kill herself," a GoFundMe site
to raise money for the second autopsy reads. "She has what appears to be a broken nose, black eye and bruising everywhere on both sides of her body."
The state's autopsy describes none of these injuries.
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. Her attorney, Alex Charns, had filed a complaint on Fennell's behalf the day before saying she had been verbally harassed by a guard.
Fennell's mother, Julia Graves, says her daughter would not have killed herself "due to her religious beliefs."
"And unlike everyone is trying to convince our family then she to believe we know she did not die at her own hands and if she did the state is responsible. Niecey was young being guarded by individuals who lack skills, I'm assuming, since they work in an adult facility and most definitely abused their Authority position," she 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 on the July 10 drive-by shooting. Her twin brother, Demoraea Fennell, was murdered in November, while she was in jail. According to the autopsy report, Fennell "reported a history of depression" that same month. Her mother, who spoke to Fennell by phone the day before, denies this.
"If that was the case, why wasn't she put on suicide watch?" Graves said "If that was the case, why would she wait five months to kill herself?"