Following the deaths of four McHenry County jail inmates since July – including three since Nov. 21 and two this week – the sheriff’s office released a statement Thursday saying the office has been “fully transparent” and has handled the cases in compliance with policies and state laws.
The office “faithfully serves the community, promoting the safety and equal protection of all,” the statement said.
In acknowledging the inmate deaths, the statement said the office “has been fully transparent in providing information in conjunction with McHenry County Sheriff’s Office General Orders, policy and procedures, state laws and the consideration of affected families.”
The office “empathizes with member of our community and the families affected by these losses,” according to the statement.
The statement also said that, when an inmate death occurs, “an investigation by an independent agency is always conducted.”
The emailed statement followed recent inquiries made by Northwest Herald regarding the deaths of Timothy Mumford, 74, of Johnsburg on Tuesday; Randall B. Little, 59, of Harvard on Sunday; Sean Grendel, 51, of McHenry on Nov. 21; and Colton Sabo, 31, of Poplar Grove on July 29.
Despite its assertions of transparency, the office, led by Sheriff Robb Tadelman, did not proactively release any information about Sabo’s death or his identity at the time it occurred, and confirmed it months later only after multiple inquiries by the Northwest Herald. It also remains unclear which agency is heading up the investigation. The McHenry County Major Investigation Assistance Team, or MIAT, is the agency the sheriff’s office cited in its Thursday release as handling the probes into the recent inmate deaths.
However, the head of MIAT, to whom the sheriff’s office referred questions about Sabo, told the Northwest Herald in the fall that it was merely “an assisting component” in the investigation and declined to answer questions.
More than four months later, neither the sheriff’s office nor the McHenry County Coroner’s Office has revealed a cause or manner of death for Sabo, despite the coroner’s office previously saying it would take three months for a determination.
On Thursday, Coroner Michael Rein wrote in an email regarding Sabo’s case that the forensic pathologist has “requested more extensive testing and we are waiting for finalization on that case.”
Rein also said there was not yet a cause and manner of death for Mumford.
In the three recent deaths, the sheriff’s office did issue news releases within a day of the inmates’ passing.
Mumford had been jailed since an overnight standoff with police in Johnsburg that started Nov. 14 after he allegedly shot a gun inside his home. Mumford was found unresponsive and declared dead in his cell, according to the McHenry County coroner.
On Monday, the office announced the death of Little, who died Sunday. Officials said he was suffering from a terminal illness and that he was taken to a hospital Oct. 20 and transferred to hospice care Nov. 13 in Lake County.
On Thursday, Lake County Chief Deputy Coroner Stephen Newton said Little’s death was still under investigation but it appeared “at this time” that he had died from the “natural disease process.”
Little had been charged with attempted first-degree murder of a police officer and other offenses after an April 2022 incident in Harvard in which authorities said Little shot a gun at sheriff’s deputies who had been called to his home for a well-being check.
On Nov. 21, the sheriff’s office reported the death of Grendel, who was found unresponsive in his cell by a corrections officer. He was pronounced dead at the scene by first responders, according to a McHenry County Sheriff’s Office news release.
Court documents show Grendel was charged days before his death with driving on a license that had been suspended or revoked because of a previous offense of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Sabo was found unresponsive in his cell July 28 and died at a hospital the next day. Sabo was in custody after he pleaded guilty to violating probation on an earlier conviction of deceptive practices, court records show. He was awaiting transfer to Winnebago County to face other pending charges, including a weapons charge.
Several attempts by the Northwest Herald for details surrounding Sabo’s death – including emails, phone calls and Freedom of Information Act inquiries to local officials – were unsuccessful.