The Durham County Sheriff’s Office identified the 40-year-old man who died at the jail Sunday as James Earl Staton Jr.
Staton was found unresponsive in his cell at the Durham County jail around 4:40 p.m. Sunday, according to the Durham County Sheriff’s Office.
Detectives with the Durham County Sheriff's Office are conducting a death investigation, which is standard practice.
The investigation is in its early stages, but preliminary findings suggest Staton died of natural causes, according to the Sheriff’s Office. His body was transported to the state medical examiner for an autopsy to determine the official cause of death.
Staton was booked into the jail on June 15. Staton and a second man were charged with multiple felonies in connection with the May 24 armed robbery of Carolina Stained Glass on Guess Road.
He was arrested in Wilson.
The Sheriff’s Office said it will notify the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) of the in-custody death, which is standard protocol.
Under state law, county inmate deaths are also required to be reported to N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
The death report indicates that the last supervision rounds when Staton was seen alive were at 4:21 p.m. and 4:44 p.m. Sunday.
The report said his time of death was 5:23 p.m.
State regulations require inmates be checked at a minimum twice an hour.
After receiving a death report, the Construction Section of the Division of Health Service Regulation conducts a compliance investigation.
Since 2013, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has cited Durham in three jail deaths for leaving inmates unsupervised for longer than state regulations allow
Those instances include:
▪ Terry Lee, 21, committed suicide in 2013. A DHHS investigation found Lee had a known history of mental illness and should have been observed four times an hour. The electronic record of detention officers’ rounds showed Lee went unobserved for nearly six hours the day he hanged himself, and had put a towel over his cell door window so no one could see what he was doing.
The Durham detention officer who was supposed to be checking on Lee was fired, a Durham jail official said.
▪ Matthew Lamont McCain, 29, died in jail in 2016 from a seizure disorder. A review of the electronic sensors showed a lack of required supervision. A detention officer was disciplined.
▪ In March, Uniece Fennell, 17, committed a suicide after telling another inmate that she planned to harm herself. The state investigation found a jail official failed to take seriously a tip that the inmate was planning to harm herself. Fennell wasn’t checked at least twice an hour through much of the day leading up to her suicide, and was not put on suicide watch when a tip came roughly two hours before her death in the early morning of March 23.
The jail has added new policies to make sure checks are done and requiring that any information suggesting inmates are threats to themselves be brought to the attention of supervisors and mental health staff, jail officials said.