It's hard to know exactly what went on those last few months in prison. My dad and stepmom only sometimes took phone calls from my brother, stating that it was too expensive and often he was not lucid anyway. As I mentioned before, his letters were hard to decipher and in one of his last letters, which for some reason my stepmom scanned and sent to me, he stated multiple times that he felt like he was dying and that he was off his meds. I asked my stepmom if she thought maybe she should call the prison and inquire about his health and well-being and she said she wouldn't do that and she wouldn't know whom to call anyway.
My brother was in prison for a little over a year when he passed away under strange circumstances at the age of 44. My stepmother sent me an email the morning after his death, which unfortunately I read as I was waiting for my daughter to finish her breakfast and get ready for pre-school. I was shocked to read that my brother had died and they had no details. I immediately called my dad and stepmom and had a very unhelpful and strangely cheerful conversation with them. They stated that the chaplain from a different prison had called to say that they had found my brother dead, alone in his cell. My dad and stepmom had not been notified of his transfer to a facility, which largely housed the unstable mentally ill, and there was no else to notify. For the 14 months or so that my brother was in prison, he had not one visitor nor communication with anybody other then my stepmom. I had considered writing to him myself, but my dad and stepmom discouraged this, saying they were fearful of what he might do to me in the future should he get out of prison and be unstable.
During that conversation that morning, my stepmom stated that she was glad he had passed away and she was fearful of what would become of him when he was released; she did not want to have to take him into her home or care for him. The divorce from his estranged wife was imminent and there would have been nobody else in Florida to help him out. His wife later stated that she was hoping to reconcile and even had plans to visit him and bring their daughter; this was the reason for the delay in the signing of the divorce papers.
My brother was found dead in his cell; the state removed the body and sent it off for a state sponsored autopsy. I was in a panic and encouraged my stepmom and dad to get a lawyer and have a second autopsy; it seemed obvious to me that the state would have no interest in releasing an in-depth analysis or report of his death and they would not be accepting responsibility for his death in the near future. I did get a lawyer on the phone with my dad and stepmom but they refused to pay fees or carry through with the process of asking the coroner for tissue and blood samples. They refused to pay for or request a second autopsy, and in keep all matters thrifty, they had his body cremated and the truth escaped with his ashes.
The autopsy reports were limited. They stated at age 44 he had moderate heart disease, no drugs or medications were found in his system, and cause of death was heart disease.... not a heart attack, or hypertensive crisis, stroke, or aneurysm. There were a few marks on his body said to be unremarkable.
How could somebody who had been medicated for bipolar disease for nearly 20 years and more recently hypertension, be found dead and with no meds in his system?
Subsequently, my stepmom and I have had a falling out, as she obviously makes the decisions and she refused to consider my viewpoints. These are not poor people, so the cost of paying for the second autopsy would have been less then the money she sent to his canteen account the previous year. I guess what is hardest for me is our difference in values; for me, it would be important to have a true cause of death to in particular demonstrate to his young daughter that his death in prison perhaps was not what he wanted, but likely was due to his circumstances.
I also found out that as just a sister, I had no rights when it came to inquiring about his care or his records; I could not make any decisions or input into his final disposition. His wife could have done so, but she was overwhelmed by his death and nearly penniless, living in a shelter, since they no longer had his income. She was pleased that my stepmom would pay for the cremation and the process happened so quickly, I never actually got to speak with her on the phone until after his body was gone.
If he hadn't owed his mental health facility money or if he had better mental health benefits, maybe his decision making process would have been different on that day he assaulted the officer. Maybe he could have sought treatment again or his wife would have gotten a 5150 hold on him. For my part, I am regretful that I didn't write to him in prison, and that I didn't inquire about his well being when he wrote that he was off his meds.
I remain estranged from my stepmom, though I write my dad a letter every few weeks or so. His Parkinson's seems to be getting better and he finally has agreed to go on medication (something I encouraged for two years, but apparently they need to do it themselves). I think he must miss his golden boy, the track star, the hyperactive kid with so much potential, everyday.