Rare disease killed inmate, autopsy finds|[08/20/2008]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An autopsy performed at the Mississippi Crime Lab Tuesday determined a rare condition called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome was the cause of Solomon “Dewey” Harris’ death early Monday morning, said Warren County Coroner Doug Huskey.

Harris, 44, 1406 Main St., had been taken from the Issaquena County Correctional Facility to River Region Medical Center on Aug. 11 due to illness, said Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace. A grand jury had indicted Harris in May in the killing of 48-year-old Harold R. Scott in November 2007, and he was set to go to trail Dec. 1.

Stevens-Johnson is a skin disease that usually results from a drug reaction. However, in some cases, there is no known cause for the onset of symptoms, which include a rash, fever, aches and vomiting. As the condition worsens, cracking and shedding of the skin is common. The syndrome is contracted at a rate of about 1 to 3 cases per million people per year.

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Issaquena Sheriff Richard Jones said jail personnel had not given any medication to Harris, and said he was told Harris had gotten medication from another inmate.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is handling the case, and calls for comment were not returned this morning.

Records show Harris had been convicted of seven felonies dating to 1985. He was one of 20 to 25 prisoners held at the Issaquena jail on a per-diem basis due to overcrowding at the Warren County Jail. Pace said Harris was arrested Nov. 22, 2007, and had been in Issaquena since May 22. Williams Funeral Service is in charge of arrangements.