Photo by Lemsipmatt/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Man found dead in cell after 4 months in jail for stealing a soda and candy

A judge had previously found him not competent enough to stand trial.


Dell Cameron


Published Aug 28, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 1:55 am CDT

Incarcerated for four months without bond, a young man accused of stealing $5 worth of groceries has been found dead in Portsmouth, Virginia, jail cell.

Jamychael Mitchel, 24, was discovered on the floor of his cell by guards early Wednesday, according to authorities. Jail officials say his death is likely the result of “natural causes,” though an autopsy has yet to be performed. There are reportedly no signs of injury to Mitchel’s body.

Mitchel was accused of stealing a Mountain Dew, a Snickers candy bar, and a Zebra Cake from 7-Eleven. His family told reporters he suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia for around five years.

“The person I saw deceased was not even the same person.”

Charged with petty larceny and trespassing, Mitchel was arrested on April 22, mere hours before a Virginia police officer shot and killed an unarmed William Chapman less than three miles away.

Mitchel’s family said they believe he starved to death after refusing meals and medication, according to the Guardian. Roxanne Adams, Mitchell’s aunt, who is also a registered nurse, reportedly told the paper that her nephew had lost nearly all of his muscle mass before dying. “His body failed,” she said. “The person I saw deceased was not even the same person.”

When Adams saw Mitchel at a recent court hearing, she estimated that he’d lost 65 pounds since his arrest. 

After arriving at the Portsmouth city jail in April, Mitchel was scheduled for transfer to a state-run mental health facility after a judge ruled that he was not competent enough to stand trial. A court clerk, who spoke to a Guardian reporter, said that defendants are typically sent to the hospital with “an order to restore the defendant to competence.”

The hospital Mitchel was ordered to for treatment had no vacancies, Adams said, so he remained imprisoned in Portsmouth without bond. 

Neither court official nor the police department could explain why Mitchel was not given the opportunity to be released on bail, according to the Guardian.

H/T Guardian | Photo by Lemsipmatt/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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*First Published: Aug 28, 2015, 5:56 pm CDT