Mother of man who died at Beltrami County Jail says AG Ellison should review case

Del Shea Perry, the mother of Hardel Sherrell, who died of medical complications at the Beltrami County Jail nearly four years ago, said the Beltrami County Attorney David Hanson won't handle the case properly as he represents the county in other matters and works with the agencies she blames for her son’s death. Hanson said he is reviewing conflicts in the case.

Hardel Sherrell.JPG
Hardel Sherrell
Derosier, Alex
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ST. PAUL — The family of a man who died in custody at a northern Minnesota jail in 2018 is asking for the local prosecutor to turn the case over to Attorney General Keith Ellison for review.

Hardel Sherrell died of medical complications at the Beltrami County Jail nearly four years ago. Sherrell's mother, Del Shea Perry, said Beltrami County Attorney David Hanson can’t handle the case properly as he represents the county in other matters and works with the agencies she blames for her son’s death. The state completed a criminal investigation of the death and handed it to prosecutors earlier this month for review.

Perry voiced her concerns at a Friday, Aug. 26, news conference at Ellison’s downtown St. Paul office.

“What makes us think that they're going to do right now?” Perry told Forum News Service. “They haven't done right for four years.”

A spokesman for Ellison’s office said the attorney general would be open to reviewing the case if Beltrami County decides to hand it over to the state.


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Sherell, 27, died in custody at the Beltrami County Jail in Bemidji in September 2018, and the sheriff’s office initially reported his death as pneumonia. But Perry says her son showed signs of significant medical problems before his death that went ignored by jail staff.
Sherell was booked on an illegal firearm possession charge on Aug. 24, 2019, as a transfer from the Dakota County Jail. A federal civil rights lawsuit Perry filed against the jail in 2019 claims jail staff did not believe Sherell when he said he could not move and had lost sensation in his limbs. Staff brought him to a Fargo hospital where he was cleared, and brought back to jail where his condition continued to deteriorate until he died on Sept. 2.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner concluded Sherell died of pneumonia, but an independent autopsy review cited by Perry’s lawsuit contradicted the official findings. According to that review, Sherell died of “untreated Guillain-Barre Syndrome,” a rare autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks nerves.

After pressure from Sherell's family, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension launched a criminal investigation of the death. State authorities handed their findings over to Beltrami County earlier this month for consideration of charges.

Hanson said he will need to review whether the prosecutor’s office has a conflict of interest in the case before he begins to dive into the evidence and weigh whether to pursue charges. In a phone call with Forum News Service, he said he understands why Sherell’s family would like to see quick action, but he will need time to make a decision.

“You got to give me more than a week to make a conflict decision on this, and if I do keep it, it's going to take a while to make the charging decision,” he said.

Hanson said it would likely take until September before he concludes whether he has a conflict.

Beltrami County is facing two other lawsuits over deaths in the county jail: Carol Bunker, the mother of Stephanie Bunker, who hanged herself with a bed sheet on July 1, 2017, in the jail, is seeking $6 million and an order mandating policy changes at the jail. And Aldene Morrison filed sued in April 2019 in the case of her son Tony May Jr. , 26, who died in the jail in 2016.


In the last decade, the number of victims of domestic violence-related homicides ranged from a high of 37 in 2013 and a low of 14 in 2018.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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