Wife of former Durham inmate questions why public wasn’t notified of husband’s COVID-19 death

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — More than a month after a former inmate of the Durham County jail died from complications related to COVID-19, the inmate’s family and county officials are questioning why the public was not notified of the death.

Darrell Kersey, 59, died at Duke University Hospital on Sept. 16 from complications of COVID-19, according to his death certificate.

According to the Durham County Sheriff’s Office, Kersey was an inmate at the Durham County Jail between Dec. 23, 2019 and Sept. 15, 2020 until he was transferred over to state custody after pleading guilty to stalking charges.

Kersey’s family told CBS 17 that he was in the hospital at the time he was transferred to state custody. 

His wife, Teresa Kersey, said he had been in the hospital since Aug. 20 after he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 8 during an outbreak at the Durham County Detention Center.

Darrell Kersey in a photo from his family.

“He told me he had never been so sick in his life,” she said.

Teresa Kersey said her family only got to speak to her husband on the phone twice while he was in the hospital. Shortly after that he was put on a ventilator and he died on Sept. 16.

Teresa Kersey said officials with the Durham County jail left her in the dark about her husband’s condition when he was diagnosed with COVID-19. She said she questions if he received proper care at the jail in the days leading up to when he was taken to the hospital.

“I do believe that if he had gotten the medical attention he needed, my husband would be alive today,” she said.

Kersey also questions why the public was not notified of her husband’s death since she says he caught the virus at the Durham County Jail.

“It’s like they were keeping it a secret,” Teresa Kersey said.

An official with the Durham County Sheriff’s Office said they did not notify the public of the inmate’s death because Kersey had been transferred to state custody one day before.

The sheriff’s office said they were never officially notified of Kersey’s death.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety put out a news release on Sept. 17 about a newly committed prison offender who died in the hospital. However, the release did not name Kersey as the inmate and did not say where he contracted the virus.

Wendy Jacobs, chairwoman of the Durham Board of County Commissioners, told CBS 17 that she has some concerns about how the COVID-19 reporting is done for cases connected to the Durham County Detention Center.

She said that she thinks the public should have been notified about the former Durham County inmate’s death.

Teresa Kersey said her family is torn apart by her husband’s death.

“He loved to ride his motorcycle, he loved operating machinery, and he loved his grandchildren more than anything,” she said. “Losing Darrell was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life.”

She argues there should be more frequent COVID-19 testing for inmates at the Durham County jail and that more safety precautions should be taken.

“This will be the last and only thing I’ll ever be able to do for Darrell,” Teresa Kersey said. “I’ll never be able to tell him again how much I love him. I just want to get some kind of justice for him.”

The Durham County Sheriff’s Office would not agree to an on-camera interview with CBS 17 on Monday.

But a spokesperson told CBS 17 through email that all inmates receive quality care and that medical staff determine if inmates need to be transported to the hospital. The spokesperson added that the sheriff’s office has advocated for mass testing before the Durham County Board of County Commissioners.

During the first week of October, the sheriff’s office internally re-allocated resources to test all 291 detainees and 227 agency staff at the jail. After test completion on Oct. 8, there were zero reported positive cases of COVID-19 at the Durham County Detention Center.

More headlines from CBS17.com:

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