Autopsy: Pettis inmate died of asphyxiation

By Nicole Cooke - [email protected]


By Nicole Cooke

[email protected]


An autopsy by the Boone County Medical Examiner’s Office Tuesday morning confirmed that a Pettis County Jail inmate died of a self-inflicted injury.

Pettis County Coroner Robert “Skip” Smith said the autopsy revealed James H. Smith, 36, of Sedalia, died of asphyxiation from self-inflicted strangulation. The inmate was found dead in his jail cell, which he occupied alone, around 9:15 p.m. Sunday during routine cell checks.

Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond said there hadn’t been any previous incidents at the jail involving James Smith, and that the autopsy results were “consistent with our investigation that it was self-inflicted.”

“He was in a cell by himself and he was last seen whenever the last meal was served, sometime about maybe 5 or 5:15 p.m.,” Bond said. “… We are doing an internal investigation. Detectives are in the process of interviewing not only jail staff that was working at the time, but also inmates that were in the same cell block he was being housed in. At this point I don’t see any irregularities.”

The coroner’s office is still waiting on the results of toxicology tests to find out if James Smith had drugs in his system at the time of death, which will take about six to eight weeks, Bond said.

According to, James Smith was charged with unlawful use of drug paraphernalia in April 2013, with a 30-day jail sentence set to begin Aug. 6, 2013. In May 2013, he was charged with possession of a controlled substance with a sentence of two years and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia with a sentence of 30 days, to be served concurrently and also beginning in August 2013.

He previously was charged with possession of a controlled substance in October 2012 and he was sentenced to serve 50 days of shock time and five years probation. That probation was revoked when he began his jail time in August 2013.

It was unknown at press time how long James Smith had been incarcerated specifically at the Pettis County Jail.

Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.

Sedalia Democrat

Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.

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