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Man found dead in jail cell in Jennings

Man found dead in jail cell in Jennings

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JENNINGS • A man held in jail in Jennings pending posting of bail on traffic warrants hanged himself Friday morning, officials and his mother said. Charles Anthony Chatman Jr., 24, of the 2200 block of Ibis Court, in Jennings, was found about 8:30 a.m.

Joe Zlotopolski, the Jennings public safety director, said a video recording shows Chatman Jr. hanging himself at 7:42 a.m., but no one was watching when it happened. That was a little more than an hour after he was moved to a one-man cell in the Jennings Correctional Center because he was agitated, and about 30 minutes after being served breakfast. He was transferred there Thursday night.

“It’s sad,” Zlotopolski said. “I watched the video and I wondered how can someone do that. It’s horrible and sad.”

Zlotopolski said Chatman was in a cell with other inmates but became combative. Inmates were concerned he would attack them, so jailers moved him to a one-person cell at 6:30 a.m. “He hadn’t been here that long,” Zlotopolski said. Chatman hanged himself with a piece torn from a sheet.

Kathy Schmidt, 46, said she received a call about 9 a.m. to say her son was dead. She said he was arrested on bench warrants for traffic violations in St. Louis County and was at one jail or another since March 16. She said he had multiple fines from several jurisdictions and some were paid before he was transferred to Jennings.

Schmidt said she did not believe he killed himself. “My son did not commit suicide over no traffic tickets,” she said.

Her ex-husband, Charles Chatman Sr., said he last spoke to his son early Thursday, by phone, and was told he had paid $750 in bail to two municipalities but needed $850 more. The younger Chatman was arrested during a traffic stop in Moline Acres, his father said.

“He was not a bad kid,” Charles Chatman Sr. said, choking back tears. “He called me and said, ‘Dad, get me out of here.’ I asked him how he was holding up and he said he was good.”

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Denise Hollinshed is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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