No charges filed in mysterious death of woman in Harper Woods jail

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Priscilla Slater died in a jail cell at the Harper Wood jail. - COURTESY OF PRISCILLA SLATER'S SUPPORTERS
  • Courtesy of Priscilla Slater's supporters
  • Priscilla Slater died in a jail cell at the Harper Wood jail.

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office won’t file charges in the case of Priscilla Slater, a 37-year-old Black woman whose mysterious death in a Harper Woods jail cell sparked protests.

Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Slater died from a heart attack and was showing no signs of medical problems prior to her death on June 10. Slater also had “significant pre-existing factors that likely contributed to the heart attack,” Worthy said in a statement.



“She was cogent and appropriate when speaking with the police and jail staff and did not complain of any medical issues while she was in the jail,” Worthy said. “There was no evidence that she was in any way harmed or mistreated while in custody.”

Shortly after Slater’s death, six employees of the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety were placed on leave while Michigan State Police investigated.



Less than 12 hours before her death, Slater was arrested in connection with an alleged shooting at the Parkcrest Inn hotel. Police said Slater was found unresponsive in a jail cell. She was rushed to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, authorities said.

Worthy said the investigation uncovered no strong evidence that any of the jail staff were negligent in responding to Slater’s heart attack.

“There is also insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the civilian aide on duty when Ms. Slater died failed to perform his duties or performed them in a negligent way,” Worthy said. “Nor is there any way to show that in the brief period after Ms. Slater’s heart attack whether medical intervention might have saved her life.”

Longtime Harper Woods Mayor Kenneth Poynter ended up resigning in July over his response to the protests. At a rally outside his home, Poynter’s wife ripped up a protest sign. In a meeting following the incident, witnesses said Poynter was angry about the protests and said he "understood why white people would become white supremacists."

“We think it’s in the best interest of the city of Harper Woods that we move on under new leadership in order to maintain and enhance fundamental liberties and rights owed to everyone who comes and visits the city,” Harper Woods attorney John Gillooly told Metro Times at the time.

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