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Days Later, Raynette “Nikki” Turner’s Family Awaits Cause Of Her Jail Cell Death

Three days after Nikki Turner was found dead in a Mount Vernon, New York, holding cell, her husband remains in the dark about how she died.

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Herman Turner told BuzzFeed News that his wife, Raynette "Nikki" Turner, was a "beautiful individual" who "loved to laugh" and walk in the rain.

Nikki, who grew up in Stanford, Connecticut, sang to Herman often, and rubbed his stomach at night.

Her cousin, Ronald Van Horden, recalled how he was with Herman when the two met back in 1993.

"He told me then, 'That's the woman I'm gonna be with,'" Van Norden told BuzzFeed News.

On Monday, two days after she was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting at a local supermarket, Nikki Turner died in a holding cell in Mount Vernon, New York, becoming the fifth black woman in the U.S. to die in police custody in July alone.

The cause of her death, which occurred on the same day as her scheduled arraignment, remains unknown.

On the morning of Nikki's death, Herman said he showed up at the Mount Vernon courtroom 30 minutes early before arraignments began at 9 a.m. There he waited until 10 minutes after 4 p.m. with no sign of his wife, he told BuzzFeed News.

When he returned home, he had no idea where Nikki was. Later, he heard a knock at his door. Two Mount Vernon detectives were waiting outside.

"They said, very coldly, 'Your wife died.' Then they turned and went down the stairs and told me to come to the precinct," Herman said. "To be honest, going back and looking at it, I don't think one officer even said they were sorry."

Authorities later told Herman that they estimated Nikki died between noon and 2 p.m.

"Nobody came upstairs to tell me that my wife had passed away," he said, his voice quivering. "They didn't do that. They let me sit in court the whole time."

The subject of Nikki's health is often discussed in connection to the mystery of her death. Police took her to the hospital Sunday evening when she said she wasn't feeling well, and have mentioned her history of high blood pressure and bariatric surgery in recent news conferences.

Herman insisted that he had no concerns about his wife's well-being the last time he saw her.

"She wasn't sick or complaining to be sick, or else I personally would have taken her to the hospital," he said. "She was fine."

He called the reference to her pre-existing conditions a "deflection from the truth."

While the anatomical autopsy has been completed, results from the toxicology report could take weeks more, a spokesperson for the Westchester County district attorney's office told BuzzFeed News.

Several messages for Mount Vernon Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Burke for more information on officer procedures for checking holding cells were not immediately returned Thursday.

Meanwhile, those who knew and loved her continue to wait for answers.

Nikki had eight children of her own, but Herman told BuzzFeed News she was closest to her youngest, an 8-year-old girl.

"She adored her. That was her baby," Herman said.

He said that the girl was adopted by another family and now lives in Atlanta.

Most of the Turner children, whom Herman described as "very aggressive," live in group homes, he said, adding that some of them have ADHD.

"We thought it would be best for the children to go away and get the counseling they need," he said.

The sense of loss, though, has been especially jarring for Herman. The last time he saw Nikki alive was Saturday morning.

"We had our usual cup of coffee. We talked and kissed and she went out," he said.

"I miss her, terribly," Herman added. "There's no one to my left, there's no more rubbing the stomach. It would probably ease the pain if I knew how and why. But I don't even have that."

Tamerra Griffin is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based Nairobi, Kenya.

Contact Tamerra Griffin at

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