New York attorney general investigating woman's holding-cell death in Mount Vernon

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Monday, August 3, 2015

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (WABC) -- The New York state attorney general's office is in investigating the holding-cell death of a woman who waited two days for arraignment on a shoplifting charge in Mount Vernon.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Monday his office is responding to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive order to have a special prosecutor investigate deaths that occur under the custody of law enforcement.

Raynette Turner, a 42-year-old mother of eight, was arrested Saturday, July 25. She was found unresponsive and lying on her side on a wooden bench in her holding cell the following Monday afternoon.

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued this statement about Turner's death:

"Today, the Attorney General informed my office that he intends to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute any unlawful acts arising from the death of Raynette Turner, who died last week while in the custody of the Mount Vernon Police Department.

"Ms. Turner's death is a tragedy for her loved ones, and it raises questions not just from her family, but from her neighbors, elected officials, community members and the media - questions that deserve answers. This kind of situation is the reason that I signed Executive Order 147 last month, because the justice system must have the trust of our communities. With the Attorney General as special prosecutor leading an independent investigation, I believe that we can begin to restore trust, eliminate any perceived conflicts of interest, and let the community know, once and for all, that justice truly is blind."

Mount Vernon's mayor, Earnest Davis, said Turner was treated for various medical issues at the time of her arrest, and was taken to Montefiore-Mount Vernon Hospital. She was then released back to police custody Sunday evening.

A state official said Turner vomited in her holding cell hours after returning from the hospital.

Turner was then taken from the court holding cell on the second floor to a first-floor police holding cell. She was found dead there hours later.

Here's the timeline of events, as per a news release from the city last week:

* Saturday afternoon: Turner arrested, taken to hospital

* Sunday 10 p.m.: Turner returned to cell after being released from hospital

* Monday 2 a.m.: Turner removed from cell for fingerprinting, returned a short time later

* Monday 2 p.m.: Officers tried to wake Turner for her court appearance, and she was unresponsive. EMS was called and pronounced her dead a short time later

The mayor said Turner previously had bariatric surgery and a history of hypertension.

Mayor Davis issued this statement on Monday:

"This morning I spoke with the New York State Attorney General's Office with respect to the matter of Raynette Turner. We have agreed to work together to make sure the investigation is comprehensive and thorough.

Mrs. Turner's funeral will be later this week and we ask that there be a continued showoff respect as we get through this very difficult time. We will continue to made every effort to keep the dialogue open surrounding Mrs. Turners' death."

This will be the first case the attorney general will be looking at under this new order. Cuomo made the order after high-profile deaths like Eric Garner, who was put in an apparent choke hold by an officer before he died.

Test results for Turner are still pending.