Lanekia Brown died in the Madison County Jail after an arrest for drug trafficking on I-55.

The death of a pregnant woman in a Madison County jail right before Christmas is the latest in a string of suspicious fatalities at the detention center this year, says a lawyer representing the woman’s family.

Lanekia Michelle Brown, 37, of Grenada died in late December while in custody at the Madison County Detention Center in Canton. Brown was arrested by Madison police on Nov. 26 after a traffic stop on I-55 led to the discovery of 103 pounds of marijuana, according to the city of Madison Police Department.

Brown was three to four weeks pregnant at the time of her death and had no known health problems, her mother, Margaret Johnson, first told WJTV. Johnson said her daughter died sometime on Dec. 23.

Brown’s family is still awaiting preliminary autopsy results from the Madison County coroner’s office. Grenada-based attorney Carlos Moore, who is representing the family, said that the family is considering an independent autopsy. 

“It is still very early but we are doing our due diligence,” Moore told Mississippi Today on Friday. “We do find the death very suspicious.”

Brown had been charged with a controlled substance trafficking violation. Her bail was set at $1 million, according to Moore.

On the day of Brown’s death, a jail nurse had gone to check on Brown after she complained about stomach pains. “They did CPR on her over and over — still didn’t get no response,” Johnson, her mother, told WJTV. “So he just said she was gone.”

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has taken over the case, the Clarion Ledger reported.

Brown’s death is the latest sign that something is awry with the Madison County jail, said Moore, who is representing the families of two other prisoners who died during or shortly after spending time at the jail.

In early December, family members of a man named Larry Thompson, who was booked into the jail Nov. 17, took him to St. Dominic in Jackson after jailers beat him, Moore said. Thompson died a few days later, on Dec. 1.

In May, a man named Harvey Terrill Turner died after an altercation with corrections officers one day after his arrest. Turner’s mother filed a petition to preserve evidence related to Turner’s death in October.

Messages to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office for comment regarding all three cases were not returned Friday afternoon.

Benjamin Crump, the Florida-based civil rights attorney who represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, will be assisting on the Lanekia Brown case, Moore said.

In 2014, the most recent year of federal data available, 1,053 deaths were reported in jails across the United States. 18 people died in Mississippi jails that year.

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Michelle Liu was a 2018 corps member for Report for America, a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms. She covered criminal justice issues across the state from June 2018 until May 2020. Prior to joining the Mississippi Today team, her work appeared in the New Haven Independent.