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Vigil brings attention to deaths


Contributing writer

LIVINGSTON -- Several dozen community members gathered at Livingston's Anniversary Park on Saturday, April 1, to pray with local families who have lost loved ones either in the custody of county jails or to violent crime. Don Glenn, whose family is among those grieving, organized the event. Glenn said he hoped the vigil would be "a message to those that are out there that you're not by yourself. There are others you can call on and say, 'I'm hurting tonight.'" Judy Bogany, Timmie King, Arletha Burch, Rhonda Wills, Rosalind Wright and Sherry Bogany all bore witness to the deaths of their sons. Judy Bogany's son, Antwaun died in mid- November 2016 after becoming ill in the custody of Polk County Jail. Texas Rangers are investigating the case but according to Bogany, two corrections employees have been fired in relation to the case. She alleges that correction officials withheld information from her as her son was dying, and that by the time they asked her where she wanted him to be transported by life flight, he was already dead. "Pray for all of us mothers," Bogany told those at the vigil. "County jails across the state are in bad shape," said Glenn. "There are people dying because of neglect." Glenn and his sister-inlaw, Timmie King, have been working with the Texas Jail Project to push for reforms. King's son Nathan died of tuberculosis he contracted while in Polk County custody. Nathan King had been treated for years for bi-polar disorder, and Glenn said, for many reasons "jail is not where mentally ill people should be." During King's nine months in custody, his family says he lost large amounts of weight and his physical condition deteriorated drastically. Tuberculosis, which is listed on King's death certificate as his cause of death, is a growing and complex problem in detention facilities nationwide— for reasons having to do with drug pricing and the disease's resistance to available drugs. Ms. King said, "I could have lost my mind (when my son died), but with God, I'm going to fight to the end. He's the one who's going to bring justice." As Glenn said, the affected families often say, "I don't want justice—I want my family back." Arletha Burch's son Eric Charles Burch Jr. was murdered in Houston on Christmas Day, 2016. The Burch family lives in San Jacinto County. Rhonda Wills' son Carl was found in 2011 in a dry creek bed next to a bridge on north Liberty County's CR 2132, which is also known as Plantation Road. The case remains unsolved, and Wills said, "I do believe here in Livingston somebody knows what happened to my child…. We're waiting for a witness to come forward. I know that Jesus says, 'I saw everything and I'm going to bring them all to the light on my time, not yours'." If anyone has information about Wills' case, please call the Liberty County Sheriff's Office at 936-336- 4500. Rosalind Wright's son Alfred Nehemiah Wright was missing for 18 days in 2013 before his body was found. The magna cum laud physical therapy graduate and married father of two's body was found in an isolated part of Sabine County. The case is ongoing, and the family has disputed Sabine County's handling of the case. Sherry Bogany's son John Ray Bogany was murdered in Goodrich in 2005. League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) representative Rosemary Covalt spoke at the vigil as well. Covalt recently accompanied Wills, Judy Bogany and King to Austin to meet with their state representative and directors from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. "Rep. White and the Commissioner on Jail Safety Standards had to look those mothers in the eyes," Glenn said. Deaths in custody occur across all racial lines. According to the Huffington Post's database of deaths that have occurred in jails since Sandra Bland's 2015 death, "Black people are more likely to die in jail because they are more likely to be arrested than any other racial group, for reasons that have as much to do with double standards in the justice system and historic oppression as they do with crime. African-Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population and, on average, 32 percent of people who died in jail between 2000 and 2013, according to federal data. For more information on insuring the safety of loved ones who are incarcerated, or support for dealing with the death of a relative while in custody, see the Texas Prison Project's website at http:// www.texasjailproject.org. For further info and support, see The Huffington Post's database of jail deaths that have occurred since Sandra Bland's death at http://data. huffingtonpost.com/2016/ jail-deaths. Both sources also have a presence on Facebook.


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