Mark Anthony Dowdin

Dowdin

The sister of an inmate who died last week at a correctional facility in Greenwood doubts that her brother  committed suicide, as authorities have ruled.

“My brother’s not suicidal. There’s no way,” said Cassandra Brown.

Mark Anthony Dowdin, 36, an inmate at the Leflore County Technical Violations Center, had hanged himself in his cell on Dec. 4, according to Leflore County Coroner Debra Sanders. A Greenwood police report of the incident, which became publicly available Wednesday, supports that conclusion.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections, which runs the facility, had not previously announced the inmate’s death.

The Technical Violations Center holds probationers and parolees who violate the terms of their supervision under an alternative sanction program.

Dowdin was convicted of armed robbery in Clay County in 2001 and sentenced to a 17-year prison term and five years of probation, according to Grace Fisher, MDOC’s director of communications.

Dowdin also had a charge of possession of contraband while in jail in Marshall County. He was sentenced to three years for that charge in 2008. In 2017, Dowdin was released from the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

Fisher said a probation violation may have led to him being sent to the Greenwood facility, beginning Oct. 17 of this year.

She said Dowdin’s death is under investigation.

According to an incident report from the Greenwood Police Department, officers received a call around 7 p.m. Dec. 4 in reference to a suicide attempt at the correctional facility.

Two officers found Dowdin lying on the floor of a cell. MedStat personnel were unsuccessfully trying to revive him.

The police report states that a jailer at the facility told the officers that he checks on the inmates every 30 minutes. The jailer, whose name was redacted from the police report, said Dowdin was alive when the jailer checked on him at 6:30 p.m.

The jailer told police that during his 7 p.m. check, he found Dowdin’s jacket blocking the cell’s viewing window. The jailer moved the jacket out of view and saw Dowdin attempting to hang himself.

The jailer said that when he tried to open the cell’s door, he discovered that Dowdin had tied his blanket to both the light fixture and the door, which would cause the knot to tighten around Dowdin’s neck if the cell door was opened.

The jailer contacted the facility’s main office at 7:03  p.m. to have other employees help him in attempting to save Dowdin.

Sanders pronounced the inmate dead at 7:56 p.m. after being summoned to the scene by MedStat personnel.

She said that Dowdin was apparently alone in the cell when he hanged himself.

Brown, Dowdin’s older sister who lives in San Antonio, said she and her mother received a call from an MDOC representative around 1:30 p.m. Dec. 5 to inform them of Dowdin’s death and ask where the funeral service would be held.

According to Brown, the MDOC official would not disclose how her brother died.

It was only during a phone interview with the Commonwealth Wednesday that Brown learned of the reported cause.

“As far as we knew, he was in protective custody. That means someone should’ve had a close eye on him,” Brown said.

Brown said Dowdin was to be released Jan. 15 and was ready to move back home to North Carolina to start a new life, marry his fiancee and spend time with his mother, who is presently staying with Brown.

“He’s a momma’s boy,” she said.

Dowdin was raised in North Carolina and moved to West Point, Mississippi, with his family in the late 1990s, Brown said. Dowdin would’ve been in his teens while Brown, already an adult, no longer lived with the family, she said.

Following his release in 2017 from Parchman, Dowdin returned to North Carolina but got in with the wrong crowd and into trouble again, his sister said. Eventually, he ended up back behind bars in Mississippi, she said.

Brown recalled that during her last phone conversation with Dowdin in November, he told her that if anything happened to him, it’s because someone had a hit on him. Dowdin had also told his fiancee, friends and other family members about this, according to Brown.

The family is now trying to raise $8,000 for Dowdin’s funeral.

“We don’t want no problems. We’re trying to lay him to rest,” Brown said. “This is hitting us pretty hard.”

Dowdin’s body is at Spencer Funeral Home in Mount Airy. He is survived by three other siblings and three stepsiblings. His father was buried in April, Brown said.

Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or gedic@gwcommonwealth.com.

The original version of this article incorrectly reported that Grace Fisher said it may have been a parole violation that sent Mark Dowdin to the Leflore County Technical Violation Center. The correct term is probation violation. 

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