Archive for Monday, May 6, 2002

Widow couldn’t post bail before fire

May 6, 2002


— Denise Davis, overcome with grief, collapsed on the sidewalk Sunday outside the Mitchell County Jail, where she had tried two days earlier to get her husband released on bond.

Later Friday evening, Jesse Davis was among eight inmates who died when they couldn't escape their locked cells after a fire raced through the lockup.

Davis, 26, had been jailed three months awaiting trial for breaking and entering. His bond was set at $100,000, and Denise Davis needed to raise more than $12,000 to free him, she said.

"They kept raising his bond every time I tried to bail him out," said Davis, who was gripping three snapshots of her husband and kids.

"I'm sure he's done wrong, but a lot's been done wrong to him, too," Davis said. "And he was a good father and husband. He died a senseless death."

Sheriff Ken Fox said there were 17 inmates in the jail when the fire started around 10 p.m. Friday. The smoky fire spread so quickly the jailers couldn't open all the cells and left eight men locked inside, where they died, he said.

The cause of the fire has not been determined. State Bureau of Investigation agents are expected to return to the scene today.

Patrick Mays, 19, an inmate waiting a court date for violating probation, was watching television with other inmates on the first floor when the fire began.

"Everyone started screaming 'Let me out!' 'Let me out!"' he told the Winston-Salem Journal. "And all the boys in the bottom cell were praying to Jesus because we knew we were going to die."

Besides Davis, authorities identified the dead inmates as Edmond Banks, 46; Danny Johnson, 42; Jeremiah Presnell, 20; Jason Boston, 27; Joey Grindstaff, 23; Tywain Neal, 28; and Mark Thomas, 20. One inmate remained in critical but stable condition in a hospital.

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