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Deputies, Texas Rangers investigating Thursday inmate death in Jasper County Jail

The jailer found Charles Thomas Merkelz unresponsive in a cell around 3 a.m. Thursday, March 21, Sheriff Mitch Newman said.
Credit: Jasper County Sheriff's Office

JASPER COUNTY, Texas — The Jasper County Sheriff's Office and the Texas Rangers are investigating after an inmate being held on domestic violence charges died in the jail in the early morning hours. 

Jasper County Sheriff Mitch Newman said he was called to the jail shortly after 3 a.m. Thursday, March 21, when after he said jailer had found Charles Thomas Merkelz unresponsive in a cell.

Merkelz, 34, of Kirbyville, was reportedly being held in connection with a charge accusing him of Family Violence. He was accused of choking the victim, which made the charge a felony. He was pronounced dead by Jasper County Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Ronnie Billingsly, who ordered that an autopsy be performed to assist him in ruling on the cause of death. 

Newman has also initiated an investigation into the incident, he said. 

In addition to conducting an in-house investigation into the death, Newman has asked the Texas Rangers to also conduct an investigation.

This is a developing story. 12News will update with more if and when we receive confirmed information.

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