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New Director Of St. Louis County Jail Pledges Independent Inquiry After Jail Deaths

Tashonda Troupe, whose son Lamar Catchings died in the St. Louis County jail in March, addresses the St. Louis County Council on April 23, 2019.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

The new interim head of the St. Louis County jail wants to bring in an outsider to help figure out why three inmates have died in custody since January.

“I want an unbiased opinion about what’s going on at the jail,” Lt. Col. Troy Doyle told reporters Tuesday after a meeting of the St. Louis County Council. “I work for St. Louis County and county government, but I think that would be reassuring to not only the workers there but the families.”

County Executive Steve Stenger named Doyle — who is also the commander of the St. Louis County Police Division of Special Operations — to lead the Department of Justice Services on Monday. Julia Childrey, who had been interim head since January 2018, will return to her role as the superintendent of operations for justice services.

Doyle said the audit would help him determine whether policies and procedures were followed, or if they need to be changed.

“I’m looking forward to trying to find those things out,” he said.

Childrey was interim director when the three men, including Lamar Catchings, died. On Tuesday, Catchings’ mother, Tashonda Troupe, told the County Council that Childrey should have been fired.

“She returned to her old, cushy job, still not caring what happened under her watch. Our sons cannot return home to us. They are gone forever, and that’s exactly where Julia needs to be,” Troupe said. 

Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, told Troupe that she agreed with her.

“But the problem is, we are limited at what we can do,” Erby said. “We didn’t hire Ms. Childrey; we didn't reappoint Ms. Childrey.”

Erby and Troupe both called Doyle’s appointment an important step.

“I know him. I have faith in him. He’s trustworthy,” Erby said of Doyle. “I’m optimistic, and I feel good about that.”

The council is also investigating the deaths of Catchings and the other two men. Erby said they’ve been stonewalled by Stenger, who was not at the meeting on Tuesday. His office declined on Monday to explain the decision to appoint Doyle as the interim head of the jail, or the decision to retain Childrey.

Doyle said he had not made a decision about Childrey’s future employment with the department. He said he wanted to talk to corrections officers, staff and inmates first.

He said he had met with Catchings’ family and planned to arrange meetings with the families of the other two men, Larry “Jay” Reavis and John M. Shy.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.