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Death in Milwaukee County Jail ruled a homicide; cause was dehydration

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MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office says the death of Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office inmate Terrill Thomas has been ruled a homicide.

Terrill Thomas

Terrill Thomas

Terrill Thomas, charged in connection with a shooting Friday, April 15th at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino was found dead in his jail cell Sunday, April 24th.

The cause of death is was dehydration with other significant conditions -- including bipolar disorder, manic type.

Milwaukee County Sheriff’s officials said in a statement issued to FOX6 News a correctional officer at the Milwaukee County Jail reported Thomas unresponsive in his cell shortly after 1:30 a.m. on April 24th.

Sheriff’s officials said Thomas showed no visible signs of trauma, but was not breathing and resuscitation efforts were made by correctional officers and jail nursing staff until MFD emergency medical personnel arrived.

Thomas was pronounced dead at 1:57 a.m

An autopsy examination revealed no evidence of injury.  Post-mortem biochemistry testing revealed profound dehydration.

Thomas' family declined to comment, referring us to their Seattle-based attorney.

"It's extremely concerning and seems to confirm some of the information that we had uncovered in the course of our investigation," said Erik Heipt, attorney for Thomas' family.

Eric Heipt says that private investigation indicates guards had cut off water to Thomas' cell. The ME's report notes Thomas was acting erratically in jail, winding up in solitary confinement, in his cell about 23-hours a day.

It also notes water had been cut off to his toilet, something Heipt says another inmate told them.

"There was at least one other inmate, if not two, that became aware that Mr. Thomas' water had been shut off and was repeatedly urging jail guards to turn the water back on," said Heipt.

Heipt says the ME's report is a start, adding the family's private investigation continues.

"They want some additional answers and they want to make sure this sort of thing never happens again," said Heipt.

While the medical examiner's office rules the death a homicide, Milwaukee police will investigate and the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office will decide whether to pursue criminal charges.

An MPD spokesman says that official investigation is also ongoing.


  • Donny

    to an outsider it may look like that. but an inmates’ water getting cut off is common, for numerous reasons. but I sure am glad you have such a strong opinion on something you know nothing of…

    • Always Outspoken

      Shutting off the water supply to a cell may be common, but neglecting to ensure the wellbeing of the inmate housed in said cell is not. Someone (or several someones) dropped the ball big time here, and it cost a man his life.

      And worse yet, you seem just fine with that.

    • C. Yu

      Moral of the story is don’t commit murder by slow torture. If this seems like an appropriate punishment for whatever the prisoner did, what punishment would you give to the people who murdered him over the course of six days? Just give them a pass, that’s what you get for getting arrested. Everyone must obey the law, including corrections officers. As far as this being a payday, the only means the family has to punish the murderers is to sue. Suing is the only legal form of recourse for private citizens. They simply have no alternative, either sue over the harm caused to them or do nothing, just let it go.

  • Joseph

    They put. Inmates in jail some no have access to water so how you supously drink water if no have.and the oficial custody is so rude went you ask for help

  • Rose Meyer

    I cannot understand why they would need to turn off the mans water supply? Was he throwing water at them? Relieving himself on the floor or his bedding? I mean what is the worst thing any us can do with water? Time that LE toughens up and stops being judge and jury!! The man needed medical help and they were to dumb to see it. Every LE who knew his water had been shut off needs to be charged with the literal torcherest death of this mentally ill man.

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