Durham teen girl murder suspect’s jail death questioned by friends, family

Uniece Fennell (Durham Police Department)


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Chelle Shaw says Uniece Fennell was focused on her future in the letters the two exchanged while they were both jailed. She’s says that’s why it’s so hard to come to grips with Fennell’s death.

“Devastating,” Shaw said. “It was kind of like a surprise because I had just talked to her.”

Fennell, 17, had been jailed awaiting trial for what authorities said was her role in a fatal 2016 drive-by shooting. She was charged with murder.

The Durham County Sheriff’s Office said Fennell was found dead inside her cell Thursday morning. An officer found her hanging from a bed sheet attached to a cell window.

RELATED: Teen girl charged in Durham murder found dead in cell, sheriff’s office says

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” said Julia Graves, Fennell’s mother.

Graves, who lives in Las Vegas, told CBS North Carolina by phone that when she spoke to her daughter, hours before her death, she was upbeat.

“She was like, ‘I can’t wait to come home and it’s just me and you,'” Graves recalled. “She was like, ‘Aww, Mommy, I love you. It’s getting so better.’ She was happy.”

Investigators told Graves the window was 7 feet from the floor, and that her daughter had tied the sheets into knots for it to catch onto a bar in the window, she said said.

“I’ve been in there, so I know what it looks like,” Shaw said. “I’m 5 foot 11 inches, she’s about 5 foot 4 inches or 5 foot 5 inches, she’s short. So I know if I can’t reach the window, there’s no way she can.”

She added, “It’s kind of shocking that she would want to commit suicide and would not tell anybody, would not speak to somebody about what’s going on.”

Fennell’s family’s attorney has asked for an independent investigation.

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