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Cynthia Buck

Cynthia Buck holds the program from her son's funeral. Cordney D'Vor Buck was 30 when he died in the custody of the St. Louis County Jail.

Cynthia Buck was at work when she received a call about her son.

On the phone was the director of the County Justice Center.

“Your son is dead,” he told Buck.

Cordney D’Vor Buck had been an inmate in the St. Louis County Jail in Clayton after being arrested April 29 by Maryland Heights police. He faced a misdemeanor charge of invasion of privacy after allegedly crawling into a stall in a women’s restroom in West Port Plaza. Three days later, on May 2, corrections officers found Buck dead. He was 30 years old.

“The police told me he killed himself,” Cynthia Buck told me. “It was surprising to me. I said I wanted to go see his body. They told me no. I was hurt because I couldn’t see my son.”

It’s been more than a month now since Buck’s son died in the County Jail. He was laid to rest May 12. Still, his mother doesn’t know anything about how or why his life ended.

Attorney Jerryl Christmas said that’s not unusual.

“People in poverty are always treated differently,” Christmas said. He’s representing Buck and plans a news conference at noon Tuesday at the County Justice Center to bring attention to the lack of cooperation he said she is getting from county police and Clayton police, which is investigating the jail death.

Christmas said he filed a Sunshine Law request to receive police reports and video from the jail and that he was told he couldn’t have anything because the toxicology report isn’t in.

I was given the same answer when I called Clayton police and asked for a police report. Short of confirming Buck’s name, age and time of death, the police won’t release any information.

And that’s what bothers Buck’s mom, and his friends, more than anything else.

While they question the veracity of whether he committed suicide, mostly they just want answers.

“If they want us to think they’re covering up something, they’re doing a good job,” said Lucas Rouggly, who is a friend of the Bucks and also their landlord.

Rouggly is a Christian minister who runs the nonprofit Love the Lou, an organization that works to lift people out of poverty, particularly on the north side of the city, where Rouggly lives with his wife and children. I first met Rouggly when he came to our church in Wildwood three years ago to tell us about the work Love the Lou does in the city. My wife and I have since donated to the organization.

A couple of years ago, a donor gave the ministry a two-story building in the 2800 block of North Kingshighway that once housed a television repair shop and a pizza delivery business. Cynthia Buck lives in one of the 10 upstairs apartments that Love the Lou rents to people who are struggling with poverty. Her son, Cordney, lived there, too. Downstairs, the ministry mentors neighborhood children.

Rouggly and David Davenport, who also works at Love the Lou, said they got to know Cordney well over the past couple of years. “Cordney was a good friend,” Davenport said.

Rouggly said he doesn’t question the veracity of the charges his friend faced. After Maryland Heights police arrested Cordney, they found a warrant for his arrest out of Illinois. According to Madison County court records, Buck failed to register as a sex offender. It’s unclear what the original charge was that required him to register.

Rouggly believes the 57-year-old mother who lost a child deserves better than to be told over the phone that her son had died and then be denied any information about his death for more than a month.

“Suicide is totally out of character for him,” Rouggly said. “That isn’t the Cordney I knew.”

Cordney Buck had been to court at 9 a.m. Monday, May 2, Christmas said, where he waived an extradition hearing to Illinois on the outstanding warrant. Then, he believes, Buck was moved into solitary confinement. He was dead by 10:41 a.m.

“How did he end up dead?” Christmas asks. “That’s what we want to know. When you take people into the justice center, you take on the responsibility for their care. If they die, you need to explain why.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this column gave incorrect information about who notified the mother of her son's address. This version has been corrected.

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