Family Desperate for Answers After Teen Found Dead in Kentucky Juvenile Facility
Sandra Bland’s death in a Texas jail cell last year raised international awareness about Black people dying in police custody, but the problem is not confined to adult prisons. Black children are also dying in juvenile correctional facilities. CBS News reports Kentucky officials are investigating the suspicious death of Gynnya McMillen, who was found dead in the Lincoln Valley Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Elizabethtown, Kentucky on Jan. 11.
The initial investigation into McMillen’s death has turned up no leads. Hardin County Coroner William Lee Jr. said her body showed no signs of bruising, and she probably didn’t have a heart condition. The coroner said he was still awaiting the results of pathology tests.
McMillen’s family has taken to social media to demand justice. A woman claiming to be McMillen’s sister created a Facebook page titled “Justice for Gynnya McMillen,” requesting additional information.
“My 16yr old sister died in custody of a detention center but they’re not giving out any info on how she was found and they’re saying (her) autopsy shows no cause of death,” said the post, which has been shared 19,000 times.
The page already has about 6,000 likes and is raising money through a GoFundMe page, which is seeking funds to help the investigation of McMillen’s death.
“We are raising money to not only bring Gynnya’s case to justice but to also raise awareness of the things that go on in these facilities and the unjust treatment that others indure (sic) in the hands of our justice systems all around the world,” according to the page.
Karen Whaley, a counselor who had worked with McMillen at the Home of the Innocents, a Louisville-based support agency, expressed shock at learning at her death.
“I don’t know how she passed and that’s the one thing that’s blowing me away. That and it being in police custody,” Whaley said.
She remembers McMillen being a “quiet and beautiful” person.
“Gynnya stayed to herself a whole lot,” Whaley said. “She didn’t bother anyone, she didn’t disturb anyone and didn’t kick up any fuss.”