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No foul play in county inmate's death, says official coroner's report

Jan 12, 2018 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The death of an inmate last month at the Fremont County Detention Center in Lander was due to natural causes, an official report said this week.

Christopher K. Chavez Jr., 60, died Dec. 16 of complications of chronic ethanol abuse, according to his autopsy results.

Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen said the death had nothing to do with Chavez's being in the detention center.

"It's just one of those things - the long-term effects are going to catch up with you eventually, and it's hard to say when its' going to happen," Stratmoen said Thursday.

There are a lot of general health issues associated with long-term ethanol abuse, Stratmoen said, like cirrhosis of the liver, for example.

Withdrawal can be another complication, but even though Chavez's autopsy showed no relevant toxicology, Stratmoen said he did not die because of a lack of alcohol in his system.

Chavez was incarcerated Dec. 14.

Stratmoen noted that facilities like the detention center usually don't admit people who are highly intoxicated.

He added that the center was under extra scrutiny in this case because it involved in in-custody death.

"Whenever a person dies in custody we want to make sure it wasn't due to some lapse of care or something like that - and it wasn't in this case," he said.

Investigators from his office and the Lander Police Department, which was the main investigating agency in the case, looked at "all the evidence" possible to determine there was nothing "unusual, suspicious or otherwise unexpected about the death," Stratmoen said.

LPD public information officer Duane Kaiser confirmed Thursday that his agency's investigation will be finalized now that the coroner's report has been released.

He reiterated that the LPD determined no foul play was involved in Chavez's death.

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