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UPDATE: Family seeking closure after death of Bradley County inmate

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Billy Joe Rogers Billy Joe Rogers
BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: One family continues to seek closure after the death of their family member at the Bradley County Jail. 

It's been nearly eight months since the death of inmate Billy Joe Rogers, and his family said they need answers. 

"It's an everyday thing. We don't know. They won't talk to us. We want answers I mean that's basically all we want is the truth," said Rogers' older sister, Ann Cloer. 

Cloer joined the rest of the Rogers family at the Bradley County Courthouse for a press conference they held Thursday, calling attention to Rogers' death investigation, and the reason he was arrested in the first place. 

"He shouldn't have been in jail. He did not commit a crime, but he died in jail we know that for a fact," said Cloer. 

Rogers was arrested for a warrant on failure to appear on a dog-at-large charge. The charge was a result of Rogers' dog reportedly biting a pedestrian. Rogers was being held until a scheduled court hearing. 

In April, Rogers was found in the Bradley County Jail unconscious and unresponsive. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating an altercation between Rogers and another inmate that sent him to Erlanger Medical Center where he later died from his injuries. 

"We heard it was over food; over food, but they need to tell us why. How and why," said Cloer. 

The autopsy report shows Rogers died because of blunt force injuries to his head, which occurred four times. It also shows other injuries, including a bruise and a "spotty contusion" on his body. 

"Look at every bone in his body that was broke from head to toe, and ask me how could you go on if it was your brother," said Cloer.

Just last week, there was another Bradley County inmate death investigation, where three officers were indicted for failing to perform checks and falsifying jail logs in the September death of Ralph Nelms. 

READ MORE | Three BCSO Corrections Officers indicted for official misconduct for inmate death

The Rogers' family attorney, John Wolfe said it's time to answer their questions too. 

"There's already been indictments, there's already been things in the paper about it, the death has been explained. All the answers are there for that family I believe at least the basic answers are there, but you know this is eight months and nothing. I mean the disparity is just inexplicable. I don't think it's right," said Wolfe. 

Wolfe said the family has requested video recordings of Rogers while he was in custody on April 27 - 28, every report made by any corrections officer pertaining to any event of Rogers in April, and every report made by any Bradley County employee pertaining to any event during the last week of Rogers' custody in the jail. 

He said the family has also tried to speak with the sheriff's office and the district attorney about the investigation, but have not heard back. 

Bradley County Sheriff's Office Spokesman, James Bradford and District Attorney, Steve Crump tell Channel 3 they are unaware of any contact made by the family prior to Thursday's press conference. Crump said he did receive a call from Rogers' wife the day of, and that he's working to fix the breakdown of communication. 

In addition, Crump said he believes the TBI's investigation will wrap up soon. He said once it is complete he will look over their final review and present it to a grand jury. 

The TBI released this statement regards to the investigation's progress: 

"At the request of 10th District Attorney General Steve Crump, TBI Special Agents began investigating the death of Billy Joe Rogers, with the assistance of the Investigative Division of the 10th Judicial District. Billy Joe Rogers was found unresponsive in a jail cell on April 28th. He was transported to Erlanger Hospital, where he died a couple days later. The investigation remains an active and ongoing one. As with any case we've been requested to investigate, we provide information from the investigation to the District Attorney General's office, and upon completion of our investigation, that office will review the case file. Since this remains an open and active investigation, we can't speak to any case specifics at this stage."

Bradford also released a statement on behalf of the sheriff's office: 

"My office has been made aware of the press-conference which took place at the Bradley County Courthouse by Attorney John Wolfe and the family of Billy Joe Rogers.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is conducting the investigation regarding the death of Mr. Rogers. It has always been our protocol to contact the 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office for any inmate death. This protocol was followed with this case which resulted in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation being contacted to exclusively and independently investigate the circumstances.

It’s my understanding the investigation is still pending and ongoing, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation should be contacted for any questions regarding the status of this investigation."

Stay with WRCB for more updates to this developing story. 


PREVIOUS UPDATE: A Bradley County inmate, who was found unconscious inside the correctional facility on Thursday, died over the weekend, those who knew him say they want to know more about what happened. This isn't the first death inside the jail this year.

Billy Joe Rogers is the second inmate to die at the Bradley County Jail in less than 2 months. He was found unconscious Thursday and died at Erlanger on Sunday. The man's family has a lot of unanswered questions and are left waiting for answers.

Close friends say the last time they saw Billy Joe Rogers the 39 year old was in a hospital bed with a neck brace-- fighting for his life. It’s an image a family friend will never forget. “I can't get this out of my mind, it breaks my heart. He was such a good guy. It's not right.”

On Thursday, Rogers was found in the Bradley County Jail unconscious and unresponsive. The TBI is investigating an altercation between Rogers and another inmate that sent him to Erlanger Medical Center where he later died from his injuries. “How could they not see what was going on in that jail. You are supposed to be able to see everyone at the jail at all times.”

Rogers' family has lots of unanswered questions. Questions the sheriff's department is unable to answer. “We really don't know about the details as far as what transpired, what happened and why the inmate was unconscious,” said spokesperson for the sheriff’s department, James Bradford.

Rogers was taken into custody for failure to appear in court. He was being held until a schedule May 9th hearing. “They want justice. That's what they want. Justice. Whoever done this to him, that wasn't right. Whatever went on at the jail wasn't right,” said the friend.

With two inmate deaths in less than two months at the Bradley County Jail, the family has questions about what's happening inside. “We have a great corrections staff. No reason to be alarmed about anything. Incidents happen. We don't know what happened with the inmate. That’s why we alerted the district attorney, who contacted the TBI, and we will let their investigation take its course,” said Bradford.

The TBI is investigating the death. The agency will report its findings to District Attorney General Stephen Crump for a final review. We are still waiting for official autopsy results in the death of 53 year old Hershel Dover. Dover reportedly died of natural causes inside the jail in March.


ORIGINAL STORY: A Bradley County inmate was found unconscious inside the correctional facility on Thursday afternoon.

The Bradley County Sheriff's Office says the inmate was then transported to a local hospital. The inmate, Billy Joe Rogers, died at Erlanger Medical Center on Sunday. 

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is currently looking into the circumstances of the incident. 

Stay with Channel 3 as this story develops.

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