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New York Attorney General To Investigate Death Of Woman In Mount Vernon Police Custody

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New York's attorney general is using his new power as special prosecutor to investigate the death of a 42-year-old woman in a police holding cell in Mount Vernon.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Monday his office will take over the probe into what happened last week to Raynette Turner.

He's acting for the first time under Gov. Andrew Cuomo's order last month giving him authority in cases where people die in encounters with police.

"Ms. Turner's death is a tragedy for her loved ones, and it raises questions not just from her family, but from her neighbors, elected officials, community members and the media – questions that deserve answers," Cuomo said in a statement. "With the Attorney General as special prosecutor leading an independent investigation, I believe that we can begin to restore trust, eliminate any perceived conflicts of interest, and let the community know, once and for all, that justice truly is blind."

The mother of eight was found dead last week two days after her arrest on a shoplifting charge, authorities said. The night before her death, police said Turner reported not feeling well and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, then returned to her cell a few hours later.

She was found dead at 2 p.m. on July 27, when she was to be arraigned. An autopsy was inconclusive pending drug and other tests.

New York Attorney General To Investigate Death Of Woman In Mount Vernon Police Custody

Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis issued a statement saying the city and Schneiderman "have agreed to work together to make sure the investigation is comprehensive and thorough. --- We will continue to make every effort to keep the dialogue open surrounding Mrs. Turner's death.''

Police have not addressed the question of why Turner was held over a weekend on a minor charge rather than given a court summons and released. City officials did not immediately respond to that question Monday.

A spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration, David Bookstaver, said Monday that Turner could not be arraigned July 27 because the court had received no written complaint.

"She was brought upstairs to a holding cell for arraignment and got sick and was taken back downstairs,'' he said. "There was no paperwork. There was no complaint.'' The city did not immediately respond Monday to questions about the paperwork.

The Westchester DA released the following statement:

"The Governor has expanded Executive Order 147 to include an investigation into any unlawful acts or omissions in connection with the death of Raynette Turner on July 27, 2015. We will work with the AG and his staff to ensure a smooth transition of this matter. From the outset the AG has been apprised of and fully briefed on the status of the investigation and going forward we will be available to assist the AG as appropriate."

Turner's death has evoked comparisons to the death in Texas of a jailed woman last month, which has drawn national attention.

Sandra Bland was found dead in her Texas jail cell July 13. Authorities said she hanged herself, but family members and friends have questioned that account.

Bland was arrested on July 10 after a traffic stop. After being pulled over for failing to signal a lane change, the stop that was recorded on the trooper's dashcam escalated into hostility. At one point, when they are off-camera, she can be heard telling him she has epilepsy.

She was arrested on a charge of assault of a public servant and taken to Waller County Jail where she was later found dead.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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