‘I think he was murdered’ | North County woman asking state for answers after her son died in prison 2 months before release

Deilo with his mother, grandmother and sister.
Deilo with his mother, grandmother and sister.(Family)
Updated: Nov. 5, 2021 at 11:00 PM CDT
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Warning: Some readers may find photos contained in this story to be graphic

FARMINGTON, Mo. (KMOV) -- A North County family is seeking answers after their son was found dead in a Missouri State correctional facility in June.

Deilo Rogers died at Farmington Correctional Center, a minimum-to-medium security prison in Southeast Missouri. The initial autopsy report ruled his death a drug overdose, but a second autopsy tells a different story. News 4 has spent the last several months investigating exactly what happened to Rogers, who was, family members said, eager to return to civilian life.

“Growing up he was always a fun, outgoing child of mine. Very energetic, the life of the party. He was just so ready and anxious to come home and see his family. He’s missed so much,” Rogers’s mother Wanda Parker explained.

Rogers was born and raised in St. Louis. Parker still lives in the home she raised him in. He was her only son.

Deilo Rogers as a child, spending time with family.
Deilo Rogers as a child, spending time with family.(Family)

In 2012, Rogers pleaded guilty to robbery, kidnapping, and armed criminal action. He was sentenced to nine years in a state prison. He served close to that, in multiple Missouri correctional facilities. In June, roughly two months before his release, he was transferred to Farmington Correctional Center.

“It was closer to home for his release date of August 3,” Parker said.

Rogers arrived at Farmington on June 6th. Five days later on June 11th, his family was told he had died.

“My daughter had last talked to him about 3:30, 4 p.m. that day,” Parker said. “Everything was okay, and he was going to call her back after he ate dinner. They (prison staff) ended up calling us back several hours later, about 9:00 that night, and they pronounced him dead.”

At first, Parker said Farmington prison staff wouldn’t tell her how her son died or where his body was located. After spending nearly 24 hours on the phone, calling around to different facilities across St. Francois County, where Farmington Correctional Center is located, she found his body at the St. Francois County Morgue on June 12th. Parker said she wasn’t allowed to see her son until June 15th.

“After seeing him, I knew something wasn’t right. He was bruised,” Parker said.

At that point in time, Parker told News 4 the Missouri Department of Corrections still hadn’t told her how her son died.

“I was suspicious. They wouldn’t answer any of my questions,” she said.

After days of unanswered and unreturned phone calls, Parker turned to local doctor and medical expert Dr. Stephen Godfrey, MD, who told News 4 he has performed or assisted in over 1,000 autopsies.

Godfrey is on the Board of Directors for the University of Missouri’s Medical Alumni Association. He’s also part of the St. Louis Pathology Society, works on-site at hospitals across the St. Louis region, and owns a private autopsy and consulting service, Peace of Mind Private Autopsy Services. Godfrey performed a second autopsy on Rogers four days after his death. He said despite the delay, it was an appropriate time span within which to conduct an accurate autopsy.

Godfrey’s autopsy report shows Rogers’s immediate cause of death was asphyxia from aspiration of gastric emesis. That meant he suffocated on his own vomit. What led to that suffocation, Godfrey concluded, were Rogers’s injuries to his face, which he said indicated assault. In pictures taken by Godfrey during the autopsy, Rogers is seen to have bruises on both of his eyes, forehead and on the side of his neck.

Images showing the injuries on Deilo Rogers.
Images showing the injuries on Deilo Rogers.(Family)

Godfrey said the state’s autopsy notes Rogers’ injuries, but does not consider that his cause of death.

“That is supported by both autopsies, although I think I have made more of it and its significance in my report than the original autopsy, which seemed to dismiss it without much concern,” Godfrey explained.

The original autopsy, performed for the state by a pathologist in Farmington, lists Roger’s cause of death as acute fentanyl intoxication. The Centers for Disease Control classifies that as a drug overdose.

“I just had never known him to do drugs, he was just so strong,” Parker said.

News 4 asked Missouri DOC officials how Rogers could have possibly gotten fentanyl while inside the Farmington prison, especially after only being there for five days. In a statement, a DOC spokesperson said in some cases, contraband is sent in the mail or given to inmates in person in the glue of envelopes, behind stamps, or soaked into the paper itself. However, the spokesperson had no answer for News 4 on how Rogers allegedly obtained the fentanyl.

“He had just gotten there so we weren’t able to visit him, and again due to COVID, he didn’t have any visitors. He didn’t receive any letters as well, like I said, he just got there,” Parker said.

Toxicology data inside the state’s report shows the average dose of fentanyl that would cause a person to lose consciousness is seven times more than the amount found in Rogers’s bloodstream. According to the toxicology results, He had 4.7 ng/mL in his blood at the time of the first autopsy. The average dose for a person to lose consciousness, as reported in the toxicology report, is 34 ng/mL. The state’s report does list Rogers’ bruised eyes and lacerations on his face, however Dr. Godfrey said their report is missing something important.

“It  had not included opening of the upper respiratory tract, and therefore, did not discover that this individual had aspirated a significant amount of his most recent meal,” Godfrey said, adding that doing so “should be part of a complete autopsy in each and every instance, in my opinion.”

Per the Missouri Sunshine Law, News 4 requested several documents from the DOC including Rogers’s death certificate, incident report, phone calls made prior to his death, and video footage before and of his death. DOC officials provided his autopsy, which News 4 had already obtained from the family, but denied the request for the other records and also denied News 4′s request for an interview.

In an email, DOC confirmed all deaths that happen inside their facilities are investigated internally, and if appropriate, by local law enforcement. The St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department said they had no record of any calls regarding Rogers’ death.

Parker, said she just wants answers. For now, she believes she knows what happened to her son on June 11th.

“I think he was murdered and they’re covering it up,” she said.

It’s been nearly five months since Rogers died, and Parker and the rest of her family want clarity and closure.

“I haven’t gotten an answer. I have two different autopsy reports, and I wanna know exactly what happened. It may not be detailed of how it really happened, but I’ll feel a little better knowing what actually happened instead of it being a drug overdose and just letting it go,” she said. “I want justice, and I want it now.”

Parker has hired an attorney to get to the bottom of her son’s death.