On July 14, Choctaw tribal politician and community activist Rexdale Henry was found dead in his cell at the Neshoba County Jail in Philadelphia, Mississippi. After speculation surrounding the nature of his death — especially following numerous incidents of people of color being found dead in police custody — his 34-year-old cellmate was charged in Henry's death last week. So who exactly is Justyn Schlegel?
According to The Clarion-Ledger, Sheriff Tommy Waddell said on Thursday that Schlegel was arrested in connection with Henry's death. WAPT News reported that Schlegel was in the cell with Henry when police found him dead with two broken ribs, according to his friends and family who worked toward a second autopsy. Waddell did not tell The Clarion-Ledger how or why Schlegel is alleged to have killed Henry because the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation hasn't yet finalized autopsy results. MBI spokesman Warren Strain told The Clarion-Ledger the investigation is ongoing, and Waddell said the case would eventually be turned over to Neshoba County District Attorney Mark Duncan.
Schlegel lives near Philadelphia and was arrested due to a "family disturbance," The Clarion-Ledger reported. The Mississippi Department of Corrections records reveal that in the past, Schlegel served a year in a state prison after being convicted in 2009 for possession of methamphetamine precursors. After being paroled in 2010, he briefly returned to prison in 2012, and he is still on probation, which means that he could possibly remain in jail if authorities decide to revoke his probation.
WAPT also reported that Henry's family and Choctaw officials have been informed about Schlegel's arrest in connection to Henry's death. However, Janis McDonald, a Syracuse University law professor and co-director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative, does not believe that all has been resolved.
We're waiting to hear what the state has to say because they still have to prove that this man is the one that killed him. I don’t understand why it took so long from the time that they found Mr. Henry dead in his cell to the time they charged a cell mate for his murder. They were locked up together, why would it take 16 days? Those are the questions the family needs to know.