Culpeper manâ??s death in jail investigated

Culpeper manâ??s death in jail investigated

Sherry Thornhill is waiting for answers regarding the death of her son Shawn Berry on Sunday, Aug. 9, while he was an inmate in the Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange.

â??I wanna know what happened,â? said Thornhill. â??Was he alone?â?

Thornhill has been asking questions but the answers have not been coming about how her 37-year-old son died. She has been unable to find out if he was in a cell alone or in general population.

One thing she does know is that her son suffered panic attacks that triggered his asthma attacks. He was taking medication every night for those asthma attacks, she said.

The Virginia State Police is conducting an investigation into Berryâ??s death, which is standard protocol for in-custody deaths in correctional facilities, said VSP Sgt. Les Tyler.

An autopsy has been performed by the state medical examiner but the results have not been released.

â??Itâ??s an ongoing investigation,â? Tyler said by phone Tuesday.

The investigation and results from the medical examiner will be turned over to the Orange County Commonwealthâ??s Attorney for review, said Tyler.

Orange County Sheriff Mark Amos said deputies received a tip on Wednesday Aug. 6, that Berry, who was wanted in several jurisdictions, was in a house on Hopewell Road in Rapidan. Deputies responded to the house.

â??[There was] no answer at the door,â? said Amos.

However, deputies smelled suspected marijuana coming from the residence. While deputies waited outside, the magistrate issued a search warrant to search the house for drugs. That search warrant was served about 4 a.m., Thursday.

Thornhill said she spoke with her son by phone and with deputies at the house.

â??He had an asthma attack while they were there,â? said Thornhill.

â??He asked if he could take a couple of puffs on his inhaler,â? said Amos.

Deputies allowed him to do that but they did not allow him to take any medication with him when he was taken to jail. Amos said that is normal practice since deputies may not be sure what the drug may be.

â??He was not in medical distress,â? Amos said. â??Rescue was not called.â?

Berry was arrested and taken to jail early Thursday morning only on the out of town warrants. No local charges were placed against him. However, a juvenile was charged with a drug violation, said Amos.

About 6 p.m., Sunday, Orange Police Chief said Town of Orange CPR-trained police officers were dispatched to the jail. The jail also called for the rescue squad.

â??I had two officers, and they did nothing,â? said Fenwick. â??Rescue was already there.â?

Fenwick said it was not unusual to dispatch police to CPR incidents since they usually can arrive faster than the rescue squad.

Berry was pronounced dead at the jail.

â??We called the state police,â? said jail Superintendent F. Glenn Aylor. â??Itâ??s our protocol.â?

Asked who provides medical services at the jail, Aylor said it was a â??mixture of nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNA),â? plus a contract doctor is available. The nurses and CNAs are jail employees.

Aylor declined to answer additional questions, including if Berry was in a cell at the time or required any medication, since it was an ongoing investigation.

â??I have handed all of the documents to the Virginia State Police,â? said Aylor.

Berry was being held in the regional jail on felony warrants in Prince William County and the City of Fairfax. In addition, he was being held in Maryland for grand jury indictments issued July 15.

Thornhill admits that her son â??had his faults,â? but she wants answers about his death.

She has lost two of her three sons this year. Shawn, who died this month, and Steven Berry, 41, died in January from influenza and pneumonia, according to his obituary.

Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at