Were a series of suicides in a Mississippi jail really murder?

Andre Jones

Andre was pulled over

CASE DETAILS

In the summer of 1992, Andre Jones was 18-years-old and about to start his freshman year of college.  His mother, Esther, was President of the Jackson Mississippi branch of the NAACP.  His stepfather, Charles X. Quinn, was a Nation of Islam minister.  In the early morning hours of Saturday, August 22nd, Andre and his girlfriend, Tanisha Love, were driving home when they approached a sobriety checkpoint.  At the time, Andre was driving a friend’s pick-up truck.

Andre was arrested and charged

A half hour later, Andre’s parents were awakened by a phone call from Tanisha.  Andre had been arrested.  At 2:00 AM, Andre called his parents from the Brandon Police station.  He said he was unaware of what he’d been charged with.  At 4:00 AM, Andre telephoned again, this time to say he had been transferred to the Simpson County Jail, 40 miles south of Jackson.  According to Andre’s mother Esther, her son still didn’t know what the charges were against him:

“We were told that they could not tell us anything at that time.  And Simpson County just refused to even talk to us and they told us that we could not come to their jail.”

Esther said she spoke to Andre at least five different times on Saturday:

“We could not tell him anything.  He was very much concerned about getting out immediately so that he could attend school the very next day.”

Then at midnight on Saturday, the Quinns heard a knock on their door.  It was a Jackson police officer.  According to Esther, the officer handed her a piece of paper:

“It only had a phone number for the Simpson County Jail.  There was not a note.  There was not a message.  It was only a number.”

Esther immediately called the police station and received some devastating news:

“I was informed that Andre had committed suicide.  I was casually informed… as if they could’ve been talking to someone that didn’t even know who he was.”

How did he hang himself with a shoelace?

According to Andre’s parents, he had never shown suicidal tendencies.  He had never even suffered from depression.  Andre had no previous arrest record, so when Esther and Charles Quinn started to look into his death, they naturally began with the circumstances of his arrest.

That night, Andre and Tanisha stopped by the Quinn’s house in Jackson around 11:45.  They left and drove east toward Brandon, where Tanisha lived.  Near the Brandon city limits, they came upon the checkpoint.  According to the police, Andre stopped just short of the checkpoint and tossed something out the window.  Police identified the object as a .38 caliber handgun.  Inside the truck, police said there was an open can of beer.  And finally, the truck—which Andre had borrowed and driven for more than a week—turned out to be stolen.

However, Tanisha Love’s version of the events was quite different from the police report.  According to Tanisha, the moment that the officers heard Andre’s name, their attitude immediately changed:

“After they asked him his name, they all went to… a little huddle, you know a football huddle… I don’t know what they were talking about because they were talking low.  And after that, that’s when they came to the truck and asked Andre again, did he have his license and he said no sir, don’t have my license.  And they asked him to step out the truck and that’s when they handcuffed him.  They shackled his feet and they had him handcuffed at the same time. I didn’t understand what was going on.”

But according to the State Public Safety Commissioner Jim Ingram, Andre Jones was never shackled.  In fact, Ingram disagreed with Tanisha’s entire account:

“There was no confrontation whatsoever with young Andre Jones.  In fact, the officers were very amazed how cooperative he was.”

Dr. Ward reviewed the autopsy

According to Jackson Police, Andre was charged on four counts:  driving a truck whose vehicle identification number had been altered, carrying a concealed weapon, possession of stolen license plate tags, and driving with an open container of alcohol.  Commissioner Ingram remained adamant that the arrest was not confrontational.  Charles Quinn, however, said that an inmate in Brandon told him that police used racial slurs to intimidate his son:

“One of the inmates who was transferred with Andre said that the officer said, ‘Do you know what happens to niggers for stealing a white man’s truck?’  And of course, other statements were said to put fear in Andre.”

The next day, Andre was transferred to the Simpson County Jail.  That night, his body was found in a shower stall at the end of a dimly lit corridor.  Authorities state that Andre tied his own shoelace to an iron grate above the showerhead and hung himself.  When Charles Quinn was allowed to visit the cell, he estimated the grate was about eight feet above the floor:

“He would need someone to have held him up to do that, and he would have needed some type of stool to stand on.”

Dr. Steven Hayne, the state-approved pathologist who performed the autopsy, said investigators had demonstrated that it was possible for Andre to have hung himself unaided:

“That position was easily reached by a member of the sheriff’s office who was acting as the decedent.”

Less than a week after Andre’s death, his parents hired an independent pathologist, Dr. James Bryant, to examine the remains and review the case:

“I think that he was strangled.  Someone did this to him.  In the usual case of a suicide by hanging, the ligature mark is along the side of the neck and doesn’t go all the way around.  It’s in this fashion, whereas in the case of Andre Jones, the ligature marking went along the side of the neck and all the way into the back and criss-crossed in this fashion.  This suggests to me that… someone had to come behind and wrapped the ligature around his neck.”

The official autopsy report listed no evidence of bruising on Andre’s neck or anywhere else on his body.  However, Dr. Bryant’s observations were different:

“He had some bruising under one of his eyes and also he had some bruising on the shoulder of the same side.  The bruising could’ve been right at the time that he died or it could’ve been some time during the day, but apparently… he suffered some kind of blunt trauma some time during the time he was in the jail.”

A year after Andre’s death, Mississippi named a new state medical examiner, Dr. Emily Ward.  Dr. Ward reviewed Andre’s autopsy report as well as the autopsies of several other men who had died by hanging in Mississippi jails:

“I think that it’s extremely unlikely that any of these deaths are anything other than suicide.  All the deaths have been investigated by not just one agency but one or two or sometimes three.”

To date, vindication has eluded the Quinns.  They filed two lawsuits—one against the State of Mississippi, the other against the federal government.  However, both were dismissed.  An investigation by the US Justice Department cited Mississippi’s jail system for what they called “gross deficiencies,” including unsanitary conditions and untrained employees.  But the report failed to find evidence that the Mississippi hangings were anything other than suicides.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season six with Robert Stack and in season seven with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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18 Comments

  1. Kasey

    Clearly that boy was killed by those hateful ugly disgusting cops. The fact that a cop can do this and get away is why I don’t believe in justice at all.

    Reply

  2. Al Bolton

    I was Andre’s best friend. Andre would have never killed himself. Foul play in definite.

    Reply

  3. Anonymous

    There’s no coincidence that several people just hang themselves, with no previous hx of SI or MI. From all of the stories coming to fore about cover ups and police brutality, I strongly suspect foul play by the police. Unfortunately this is systemic, which is why they were not prosecuted. Mississippi has never caught up with the times and Jim Crow is still the law there. It’s shameful and the police there are pathetic. May this young man rest peacefully and his murder eventually solved.

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    Dr Emily Ward your words don’t fill me with much faith in your judgement, “investigated not by one but at least one, sometimes two or three”, um yeah sure. Poor kid.

    Reply

  5. morgan

    I think someone killed him because this is exactly what happened to my father

    Reply

  6. Citizen

    He was murdered. His killers knew what they were doing and how to frame it properly so the truth couldn’t be proven. I think that the Mississippi government suspects what’s going on but dont want that kind of bad publicity on their state so they won’t allow that door to open. It just goes to show what kind of system we really live in. I pray for Andre 🙁 God bless him & his loved ones.

    Reply

  7. Jessi

    A classic lynching. Unsolved but hardly a mystery, especially considering who his parents are. Things haven’t gotten any better for black people concerning the police – cops have just cleaned up their language a bit – and I say this a white woman from Alabama who’s never experienced bad treatment from police. Poor kid and his family.

    Reply

  8. LUIS FREEH

    DON’T THE POLICE GUARDS TAKE YOUR SHOELACES WHEN U GET TRANSFERED TO ANOTHER PERMANANT HOUSING? A JUMPSUIT AND LIKE SLIP ON SLIPPERS. YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! “I’VE BEEN” “I” THINK THAT HIS GIRL FRIEND NEVER SHOULD HAVE TOLD THE PARENTS WHAT HAPPENED. AND THAT DECIDED THAT!

    Reply

  9. DEBRA SIMMONS

    Another sad case of a young black male being murdered in the state of Mississippi, especially in a government jail cell and getting covered up by the ones who killed him. this case is still crying out for justice, no matter that it happened 24years ago, today this young man Andre would be 42 years old. evil demons disguised like officers of the so-called law , without any doubt in my mind is fully responsible for Andre’s death and this system is allowed to get away with it. I just saw this episode on unsolved mystery and it breaks my heart to see this, because I too had a brother killed in 2007 while in police custody in a Mississippi jail, and to only have my case also dismissed. I wish the family get peace and justice 4 Andre. This young man did NOT deserve to have his life taken because of someone or someones evil racist hatered and some who had a hatered toward his mother and father’s affiliations with their organizations. I know Mississippi very well. Mississippi is my home state and one which I’m highly a shamed of , because the same old rotten,evil stuff still happens there. No Justice! No Peace! if anyone reads this and wants to get together to bring about change then please contact me at jjaa57@aol.com for further details.

    Reply

  10. SisterMorphine

    Steven Hayne was eventually discredited as a pathologist, punished for perjury & several murder cases were overturned or reopened bc of his “evidence.” Whether that has anything to do with it, I don’t know, but this sounds mighty suspicious.

    Reply

  11. Anonymous

    Madea

    Reply

  12. Rose

    I don’t believe he killed himself . Someone knows what really happened and how they can sleep at night but judgement will come when you stand before our God ….

    Reply

  13. shelya

    Why would a young man kill hem self ? Was he killed because of his parents positions within the community? This has got to stop,before all our childen die by the hands of HATE RED

    Reply

  14. Rebecca

    I agree he did not commit suicide, someone did that to him. He was looking forward to starting his freshman year in college. It seems he was beaten and strangled to make it look like he committed suicide. Such Injustice, its a broken system, too many lies to cover-all wrong doings. its sad no closure for his family. May he rest in peace.

    Reply

  15. Anonymous

    I don’t believe that this young man hung himself. I think it was the works of a hateful person. These people are still hiding in plain sight. How long will they be allowed to get away with this on earth? When it is all said and done, they will have to answer to the master. Wrong is wrong!!

    Reply

  16. Ebony

    I really think someone the jail did it or one of the prisoners because I was reading how the police change up the story. but will they know it was white truck…

    Reply