Family questions circumstances of Cairo man's death

Friday, December 16, 2005

CAIRO, Ill. -- The family of a Cairo man found dead in a holding cell Wednesday morning is questioning whether he killed himself and whether his civil rights were violated. Alexander County Coroner David W. Barkett has asked the FBI and the Illinois attorney general's office to investigate.

Demetrius Flowers, 38, was found hanging by his shoelaces in a holding cell at the Cairo Police Department. Barkett said the preliminary autopsy found that Flowers died from lack of oxygen due to ligature strangulation.

Flowers' family questions whether he would hang himself.

"It was not a part of his nature, not a part of his character," said Mereva Parnell, his aunt. She described Flowers as a nice, caring man who often helped her take care of her aging father, Flowers' grandfather.

Flowers was arrested early Wednesday morning on suspicion of battery and obstructing a police officer.

Though the discovery of Flowers' death was reportedly made at 9:15 a.m., his family says they were not notified until noon.

"To me the proper procedure is to call the family in to identify the body," said Parnell, 58, of Cairo.

Barkett said there was no need for the body to be identified. "The body was already incarcerated in the jail," he said.

Processing the holding cell for evidence took about 2 1/2 hours and was completed shortly before noon, Barkett said.

Flowers was incorrectly listed as married when booked, Barkett said, which briefly delayed notification of the family. Police originally went to the residence of Flowers' ex-wife, who was not home. The woman's father, who lived next door, told police Flowers was divorced.

Parnell's sister was later contacted, and she informed the rest of the family.

The last time Parnell saw Flowers was on Tuesday, she said. They had a casual conversation about his grandfather's sweater that he was wearing.

Flowers is survived by five children, the youngest newborn twins. He worked through various jobs at different times, Parnell said.

The funeral will be held Sunday at Heavenly Gate Funeral Home in Cairo, Parnell said.

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