A man was found unresponsive at the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center last week and later pronounced dead at a hospital, marking at least the third death tied to the facility in four months and underscoring the urgency of mounting problems there.

The death of Chase Williams, 37, was confirmed Monday by Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which runs the troubled jail. He said that detectives from the department were leading an investigation into the death and waiting on autopsy results, but declined to provide further details on the incident.

Williams was found unresponsive somewhere in the facility on Tuesday, about two hours after he was booked into it, according to a source close to the family.

The individual, who asked not to be named due to safety concerns, said in an interview Monday that Williams had been incarcerated on and off for nearly two decades, but had suffered a serious decline in mental health.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Williams was released from Patuxent Institution, a state prison in Jessup, in December. But he was dropped off in the middle of Baltimore City at a homeless shelter, despite the fact that he was raised in Baltimore County and had never lived in the city before, according to the source close to the family.

Williams agreed to participate in a treatment program, the source said, and was doing well until he developed an infection in his ankle that sent him to the hospital for four days.

“He got in a fight at the treatment facility. They had to call the police. The police took him to Central Booking,” the source said, adding that he had talked with his mother at 7 p.m. and was found unresponsive two hours later.

Williams’ death follows that of 21-year-old Cortez Johnson, who was found unresponsive in his cell in November with “no obvious signs of trauma or foul play,” according to the corrections department. The department said at the time that it could not elaborate on Johnson’s cause of death pending autopsy results, but acknowledged that four other detainees suffered possible overdoses the following day. All were released following medical treatment.

“The Department has multiple specialized teams that have been and will continue to be on site, all focused on contraband interdiction and recovery, to include K9 units,” a spokesperson said in November.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Those overdoses followed the violent death of Javarick Gantt, who was allegedly strangled in his cell by Gordon Staron, according to prosecutors. Staron was being held on murder charges at the time of the incident, raising urgent questions about why he was paired with Gantt, who was deaf and was in jail due to a technical violation stemming from relatively minor assault charges.

Gantt’s alleged murder has underscored the litany of documented issues at the state-run Baltimore jail’s capacity to safely house people, especially those with disabilities.

The corrections department has declined to say how many people die in its facilities, referring such inquiries to its public records department, which has not yet fulfilled requests for that information.

Staff Writer Dylan Segelbaum contributed to this report.


Ben Conarck is a criminal justice reporter focusing on law enforcement for The Baltimore Banner. Previously, he covered healthcare and investigations for the Miami Herald and criminal justice for the Florida Times-Union. 

More From The Banner