Texas Rangers are investigating the death of a 42-year-old Port Lavaca man who was being held at the DeWitt County Jail on Monday night.
At 11:34 p.m., jailers discovered Christopher Lee Beck unresponsive in his cell, said DeWitt County Sheriff Carl Bowen on Tuesday.
A jailer had last checked on him 15 minutes earlier by examining him through the cell’s wall-length window, Bowen said.
Within minutes of his death, sheriff’s officials contacted the Texas Rangers to request an investigation, as required by law, he said.
They also notified the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
Justice of the Peace Peggy Mayer requested an autopsy that was conducted Tuesday.
Although no indications of foul play have been reported, the man’s wife said she isn’t willing to give authorities the benefit of the doubt.
“He’s not here to fight for himself, but I am,” said Beck’s wife, 44-year-old Port Lavaca resident Stephanie Beck.
The two were high school sweethearts and very much in love, she said.
Unsatisfied by the results of an autopsy ordered by authorities, the man’s family members are seeking to request an autopsy of their own, his wife said.
They are also seeking legal representation to ensure Christopher Beck was properly cared for during his time at the jail, she said.
“Why didn’t they take him to the hospital?” Stephanie Beck asked.
Jailers had placed Beck in a booking cell for better observation after determining during his jail intake screening that he had significant health issues, Bowen said.
That intake screening analyzed Beck for a variety of mental and physical health complications and was conducted by contractor Southern Health Partners.
During that screening, officials noted nothing remarkable other than the man’s previous medical history, Bowen said.
Booked into the jail at 11:40 a.m. Saturday, Christopher Beck was arrested by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers on suspicion of two charges: duty on striking structure, fixture or highway landscaping and failure to report an accident.
Christopher Beck had suffered from serious medical issues most of his life, his wife said.
When he was 18, doctors discovered scar tissue wrapped around his intestines, she said, adding this issue resulted in numerous serious health problems.
By age 42, doctors had removed his spleen, duodenum and pancreas and parts of other internal organs, she said.
In fact, six months before he was jailed, Christopher Beck had undergone major surgery on his stomach after it was found to be ruptured in three places, she said.
With those medical issues and surgeries in mind, Stephanie Beck said, authorities should have paid much more attention to his condition at the jail.
In fact, she wondered why he was there in the first place rather than a hospital.
“I don’t trust the cops,” she said. “I am the one who questions everybody.”
With the rangers’ investigation ongoing, Bowen said he could not answer some questions, such as whether Christopher Beck had asked for medical attention before his death.
But Bowen said he was nevertheless a strong supporter of transparency and would release details as soon as he could.
“Bad things happen sometimes, and when they do, the public expects to know the truth,” he said, adding he thinks of transparency and public trust as “critical” parts of his job.