A state inmate being held in the Walthall County jail died of apparent natural causes late Monday night, officials confirmed.
Bobby Michael James, 45, was pronounced dead at Walthall County General Hospital in Tylertown on Tuesday morning, Coroner Chris Blackwell said.
James’ death comes after the Mississippi Department of Corrections confirmed the 16th death of an MDOC inmate throughout state correctional facilities since Dec. 29.
Most of those deaths occurred at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.
James Allen Brown, 54, died of apparent natural causes at Parchman on Monday. An autopsy is pending.
Walthall County Sheriff Kyle Breland said an ambulance was called to the jail jat 11:58 p.m. Monday after James complained of difficulty breathing.
Blackwell said investigators do not suspect foul play.
Breland said the cause of death is undetermined, pending an autopsy and toxicology report. James’ body has been sent to the Mississippi Crime Lab in Pearl.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is handling the investigation, Breland said.
James, a trusty at the jail, had high blood pressure but had access to his medications, Blackwell said.
He was serving a two-year sentence handed down in November for a felony DUI conviction in Walthall County.
MDOC records show he was transfered to the Walthall County jail in mid-January. He was scheduled for release in May.
According to the MDOC, an inmate may be transferred to a county jail instead of a state prison because of the nature of the crime, custody level, behavior, existing medical conditions, court-ordered treatment or to participate in a work program. Inmates may be transferred to different facilities at any time because of circumstances related to those situations.
A surge of deaths of state inmates occurred around the new year as state facilities devolved into violent riots and fights between members of prison gangs. Gov. Tate Reeves ordered the MDOC to close the Unit 29 at Parchman, where much of the violence occurred, during his State of the State address.
While the Walthall County Jail is not a state facility, James was a state inmate, according to MDOC records.
MDOC Director of Communications Grace Fisher did not immediately return requests for comment Tuesday afternoon.