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Families left with questions after four county jail deaths in two months

There have been three deaths in Cumberland County Jail and one in York County Jail. So far, investigators have not released the causes of death.

MAINE, USA — Billy Tucker died just a day after his birthday in his cell at Cumberland County Jail on June 4.

His grandmother, Charity Tucker, said she took care of him as a teenager and a few times throughout his young life as he battled addiction.

"He was a good kid, generous, very funny, always joking ... I'm a grandmother you know, so I'm biased, but he was a good man," Charity Tucker said. "A day after his birthday, I found out his mother called ... Billy was dead."

Charity Tucker said Billy wanted to go to Lewiston for a program to treat his addiction, and then move to Caribou with his father. He was arrested just days before he planned to drive up there, Charity Tucker said.

"I don't feel right about what happened to him down there ... They took him. It's like they didn't care. And now another man dies one month and two days after Billy? Something is wrong, something is very wrong," the grandmother added.

Billy is one of four people who died in Cumberland and York County jails since May.

Nicole Turner died in York County Jail on July 3, Michael Hansen in Cumberland County Jail on May 12, Billy Tucker on June 4 and an unnamed man in Cumberland County Jail on July 6. 

Nicole Turner's death is being investigated as a suspected overdose, according to Maine State Police.

Nicole Turner's aunt, Peggy Turner, said Nicole struggled with addiction, but doesn't know why they're investigating her death as an overdose.

"She became an addict to cover her trauma, her trauma fueled the addiction, the addiction led to crimes, the crimes led to her being incarcerated which, therefore, led to her death which is still unknown," Peggy Turner said. 

Peggy Turner said her niece was raped at 14 years old, and was rehomed from her family. She said she only found out about those past events around 2020.

"She was not an addict, she was a little girl who suffered severe trauma who became an addict," the aunt said. "She was a traumatized kid long before she was an addict."

Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition Assistant Director Jan Collins said jail is one of the most harmful places people can go to when they're battling addiction, as many jails don't have adequate treatment facilities.

"Usually when someone is battling an addiction they have an underlying mental health condition ... When that is taken away from them those health conditions will surface," Collins said.

Collins said jails in Maine don't go far enough to initiate addiction treatment.

"For someone who has a mental health disorder it is crushing to be placed in solitary confinement, you are alone with your demons and those demons are relentless," Collins added.

According to Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce, the county jail provides addiction treatment for people who were undergoing treatment at the time of the arrest, but the jail doesn't initiate treatment.

"I am responsible for their safety here and I don't take it lightly, so one is bad enough and three is definitely concerning," Sheriff Joyce said.

Joyce said the department hopes to implement an addiction treatment that can be initiated with someone who is booked in jail within the next six months.

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