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Family not convinced daughter's death was suicide

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The family of a woman who died in police custody went before Houston City Council demanding answers after their daughter died in a Houston jail. Shawna Huebner's family says things they've discovered since her death in August just don't make sense, and they don't believe the police are telling them everything.

Shawna's family went to city hall to ask for openness in government. Her parents say they want to know if someone's trying to hide the truth about what happened in that city jail cell.

For nearly two months now, Kathryn and Fred Huebner have been demanding answers from the city.

"Oh, it's very frustrating," Kathryn said.

They want answers about their daughter Shawna's death inside the city's Mykawa jail in southeast Houston.

"It's so secretive. They are not helping us, they deny everything," Kathryn said. "They won't release anything."

Back in August Shawna Huebner was arrested at Hobby Airport for public intoxication after being denied access to her flight. Houston police told us then the 29-year-old was placed in a holding cell. They say the woman wrapped a cord from a pay phone around her neck and hung herself. The medical examiner ruled the death suicide.

Attorney Randall Kallinen said, "This was all on a monitor, a video. Apparently, no one was watching the monitor."

The Huebner family addressed city council members with their civil rights attorney Tuesday afternoon. They claim new evidence they've uncovered, like blood stains on the woman's clothing when they picked it up, suggests Shawna may have been suffering from a medical issue which police and jail staff ignored.

"They should have taken her to a hospital," Kallinen asserted. "She was definitely in medical distress, as evidenced by the fact that she was bleeding."

The Huebner family claims the city is requesting a subpoena for information about the case. But Kallinen argues the city has the option of giving them access to the jailhouse video and documents through the Texas Open Records Act.

"The city of Houston and the people want to know if their jails are not working the way they should be. And these parents should get this video," Kallinen said. "It's just such a simple issue."

That issue is becoming so complicated that Huebner's family is deciding whether they will to file a lawsuit against the city.

Houston police said it has no comment on the case right now because of the ongoing internal affairs investigation.

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