Deceased inmate’s kin suspicious

Family members of an inmate who died while in custody at the Montezuma County jail said they have “suspicions and concerns.”

Harrison M. Begay, 38, died at the jail in October. His sister, Felicia Herder, said she was inside the jail, and saw her brother being wheeled in while strapped to a chair. He appeared unconscious, she added.

“That was the last time I saw him,” said Herder.

Herder explained that Begay, a resident of Tonalea, Ariz., was stranded while visiting in Cortez. Herder said she made multiple four-hour trips to Cortez to find him, and left her phone number with police.

Days after her last search, Herder said she received a call from law enforcement informing her that Begay had been arrested. She, her mother and brother “rushed” down to the jail in an attempt to post bond, she said.

Unable to afford the $500 bond, Herder said she planned to attend a court proceeding on Oct. 28. Her brother died the previous day.

Herder said she doesn’t understand why Begay was placed on a medical watch at the jail if he’d received a clearance from the hospital. Herder said she’s also concerned the jail nurse was not on duty at the time of her brother’s passing.

Herder said the family has hired an attorney from Albuquerque to delve into the death but declined to reveal the attorney’s identity.

Montezuma County Coroner Charlie Rosenbaugh said Begay died of natural causes from alcohol abuse.