Grayson County Jail inmate found dead

A Grayson County Jail inmate was found dead inside his cell Monday night. Grayson County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Rickey Wheeler, public information officer, said, “All indications are that (the inmate) took his own life.”

Grayson County Justice of the Peace Butch Morgan pronounced Refugio Medina Benitez dead after Sherman paramedics were called to the jail. The paramedics transported him to a local hospital’s emergency room, and that’s where Morgan made the pronouncement. Early Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Office called the only number shown on Mr. Benitez’s book-in sheet as a contact, and later Tuesday, family members went to the Sheriff’s Office to make a positive identification.

Wheeler reported that Mr. Benitez had hanged himself.

Mr. Benitez, 39, from Houston, and another man, Marcos Omar Mancilla, 30, have been incarcerated since Dec. 1, each on two felony charges of manufacture-delivery of controlled substances. Mancilla has a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold placed on him, even after bail was set at $45,000. Bail on Mr. Benitez had been set at a total of $35,000. The report supplied at the time by Sherman police stated that an officer was monitoring northbound traffic when he saw a vehicle go by without a front license plate on it, but with a Texas license plate in the rear. The driver stopped the car for the cruiser’s overhead lights. The driver, it’s unknown which of the two men it was, gave permission to search the vehicle, and that search was conducted with a police dog. The K-9 alerted on the gas cap, and police found more than 46 grams of cocaine and methamphetamine there.

Grayson County Sheriff Keith Gary said that corrections officers had completed a required check of the inmate in his cell at 9:10 p.m. Then, while again checking on him 40 minutes later, at 9:50 p.m., the corrections officer making that check found him on the floor inside his cell, the telephone cord wrapped around his neck. She called for help, and the jail staff called Sherman paramedics at 9:54 p.m., records show. Those records add that an ambulance arrived at 10:06 p.m. Gary said that Morgan had Mr. Benitez’s body sent to the Dallas County Medical Examiner for autopsy, Gary added.

Gary said in a prepared statement, “We take every step possible to prevent these types of tragic incidents in the jail. Even though we go above and beyond the requirements set by (Texas Commission on) Jail Standards, we will still have people who will find ways to take their own life.” Wheeler explained further, saying that the Jail Commission requires that cells be checked every hour on the hour. “Grayson County jailers go one step above the requirements and check the cells once every 45 minutes,” he said. In this case, they exceeded the one-hour checking requirements by checking on Mr. Benitez within a 40-minute time frame, Gary said.

Mr. Benitez was in a separation cell at his own request. Gary said that the inmate had asked for that change several days ago, because there had been confrontations between him and some other inmates in his cell block. Book-in records show that Mr. Benitez was a 5-foot tall man.

Gary said that prisoners are entitled to have access to telephones and most cells have a telephone on the wall. The jail also has a portable telephone that the corrections officers can provide inmates who are housed in cells without a wall-mounted phone.

Grayson County investigators are working the case, and Gary said that they could ask another agency to take a second look at it.

Gary stated that Mr. Benitez had not given staff any problems while incarcerated.

“This has affected our whole staff, and had a profound effect on the female officer who found him,” Gary said.

“That whole shift is torn up about it.” He added that he has every confidence in the staff at the Grayson County Jail.

“To the Benitez family, we offer our prayers of comfort in dealing with their loss,” Gary said.