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Families of inmates who died in Winnebago Co. Jail fight for answers

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Two families who've never met share something in common they never imagined. Their loved ones walked into the Winnebago County Jail, and would never walk out.

"This is not a jail, this is a death building," said Theresa Derrickson, Joseph McCormick's mother.

"I want closure because I know something happened to my son," said Eugene Lindsey, the father of Eugene Washington.

Washington died on Oct. 28. That's nearly the only fact his family has.

"The autopsy and toxicology report are showing no signs of anything," said Lindsey.

Less than two months later, as Eugene's family searched for answers, another inmate died.

"It was shock, too. And I'm hoping a wake-up call for Rockford. Something is obviously going on," said Janessa Shaw, Eugene's cousin.

Then on December 1, Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz said Joseph McCormick hanged himself in his cell.

"His last words to me where 'I love you dad, I'll call you tomorrow'. That doesn't sound like someone who's gonna commit suicide to me," said Rick McCormick, Joseph's father.

Both families say they're fighting for answers from the sheriff, as well as video from inside the jail on the day the men died. The sheriff's office will only say the deaths are under investigations. The families say that's not good enough.

"Stuff is happening. People are coming up dead on your watch. That goes to me, shows me you're all not doing your job," Lindsey said.

"I understand that there's criminals in here and there's people that's committed crimes and they deserve to be punished for their crimes. I understand that. But not to die. Not to come in here and die," said Derrickson.

In 2018, another death was reported from inside the jail. The jail was eventually sued for the wrongful death of Justin Matthews.

Kristin Crowley

Evening News Anchor
Kristin Crowley anchors the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. news. She is also a reporter for 13 Investigates. She brings more than a decade of experience to the newsroom. Her work at WREX has earned her multiple awards including a regional Edward R. Murrow for Investigative Journalism and three regional Emmys.

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