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Local

Coroner: Inmate died of asphyxiation

The woman found unconscious in the DeKalb County Jail on Friday died of asphyxiation caused by hanging, the county coroner said Monday.

Brandi L. Brantley, 19, who lived in DeKalb, was found by jail officers about 2:45 p.m. Friday, covered with a blanket on the floor of a visitation room at the county jail in Sycamore. She was taken to Kishwaukee Community Hospital in DeKalb, where she was pronounced dead.

DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller said Brantley strangled on a metal telephone cord, similar to those found on pay phones. Toxicology results will not be ready for several weeks, he said.

The visitation room has four partitions, each with a stool, which is bolted to the floor, and a phone, affixed to the partition, DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said. The room also has a video camera.

"It's not something I can explain in this situation at this point," Scott said when asked how Brantley could hang herself but be on the floor covered in a blanket. Brantley had asked for and was given a blanket because she was cold, Scott said. Scott said he wanted to wait for the final report before commenting further.

Brantley had been alone in the visitation room since about 11:30 a.m. Friday, after she was taken into custody until she could be transferred to a rehabilitation facility. She was placed in that room because the jail's holding cells were full.

She did not show signs of suicidal behavior, Scott said, and she was checked on at least once in the hour before she was found.

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office has launched an internal review into Brantley's death. Scott said that investigators, who are separate from the jail staff, have reviewed the video from that room but that he has not seen it yet. The sheriff expects the internal review to take several days.

"It's a very thorough investigation," Scott said. "There are many pieces to this puzzle that we need to follow up on."

The jail was required to notify the Department of Jail Standards within the Illinois Department of Corrections within 72 hours of the death, Scott said. The county did so Friday afternoon, he added, and the internal review will be forwarded to that department once it's completed. The county's state's attorney's office also will get a copy of the review.

The last death in the county jail was May 23, 1995, when inmate Robert R. Diaz hanged himself, Scott said. The county was found by the state to be in compliance with jail standards then, Scott said.

Brantley, a 2008 graduate of DeKalb High School, had been admitted to the county's drug court program Friday during an 11 a.m. appearance at the DeKalb County Courthouse, Drug Court Coordinator Marilyn Stromborg said.

Drug court is a five-phase program – which includes residential treatment, daily check-ins and frequent drug testing – that aims to end the cycle of incarceration, release and new crimes that lands addicts back in police custody.

Since 2006, Brantley had been arrested twice on misdemeanor drug charges and pleaded guilty in both cases, according to court documents. Six open cases of Brantley's were dismissed Monday during a hearing at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore.

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