Man who witnessed dead inmate in Justice Center says he’s been silenced

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ST. LOUIS – Leaders at the St. Louis Justice Center appear to be hiding a witness to a death inside the jail, according to a police report and a man who says he can prove he was there.

Eric Ware is a former inmate and a key witness in a death investigation that is 108 days old as of Wednesday.

Only FOX 2 has interviewed Ware. Neither police nor prosecutors have spoken to him. City leaders have not talked with Ware and neither have jail task force members.

Ware said, “They could have found me. They could have found more information so we could have gotten to the bottom of it. It looks like no one really wanted to get to the bottom of it.”

Today Ware is free. He said his story is similar to many who’ve gone through the Justice Center. He was never convicted and the charges against him were dismissed.

Five days before he was released, on Nov. 8, 2020, Ware saw 33-year-old Kevin Cavins dead in the jail.

The police report said Cavins was having a “negative reaction from the medication he was given by staff” and that “Cavins informed correctional officers and nurses of this issue at least three times.”

The reports reads, “At 1:50 a.m., (a lieutenant) conducted a well-being check on Cavins, at which time Cavins was unresponsive.”

Ware was there at that time, working with the cleaning crew inside holding areas for incoming sick inmates, called “bullpens.” He said the lieutenant’s claim of checking Cavin’s health is not true.

“That wasn’t a well-being check. We was cleaning the bullpens so he didn’t specifically come there to do a well-being check,” Ware said. “I want to make sure that’s known. He was only in that bullpen and happened to find him dead because we was supposed to be cleaning out the bullpens. That’s the only reason why he found him unresponsive.”

City leaders have been silent about Cavins’ death. Toxicology results that typically take six weeks are still pending after 15 weeks.

Cavins’ sister, Angi Pirtle, has been seeking answers. She hired attorney Mark Pedroli who was already questioning claims Cavins was properly monitored.

Pedroli was shocked to hear we’d spoken to a witness who disputes an officer’s claimed well-being check.

“It’s amazing for two reasons,” he said. “One, that you have found a witness that police previously didn’t produce; but the second reason I think it’s extremely important is because it appears to be a witness that isn’t produced to the police. That bothers me.

“If there’s motive to hide him it would be so the government’s story, the jail’s story, would be sustained.”

Ware said there’s proof he’s a witness to the incident. He said he can be seen in the jail surveillance video. Cavins’ sister and her attorney asked to see that video last week.

“They did allow us to review it and we did see your witness and he was there,” Pedroli said. “That person was in their custody – that’s what bothers me the most. He wasn’t at home and hard find. He was in their custody. He was in their control. He should’ve been produced to the police when they asked.”

FOX 2 notified St. Louis City Hall, the city public safety director, and the jail commissioner about this witness last week. They refuse to respond.

Ware said he’s ready to give his testimony anytime.

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