By Charles Sercombe
Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said members of the metro-Detroit Bangladeshi community jumped to conclusions about the circumstances surrounding the death of a Bengali man being held in jail.
Last Friday (Jan. 8), Macomb County Jail officials found the body of Mohammed Abdul-Fazal Chowdhury in his jail cell. Chowdhury’s throat had been slit and he was dead when jail deputies found him.
But what else that was discovered has jail officials mystified. Chowdhury’s genitals were also severed and his penis was missing.
An investigation by the sheriff’s office found that Chowdhury had cut off his genitals and he had flushed his penis down the toilet – according to blood stains found on the jail cell toilet, blood spray patterns and blood found on his body.
Jail officials say that after Chowdhury mutilated himself, he then laid down on his bed and slit his throat in an act of suicide.
The extent of Chowdhury’s mutilation was not known to the Bangladeshi community which learned about it when his body was being washed at Krot Funeral Home.
On Tuesday, a press release was issued by Manzur K. Shafi and Asm “Kamal” Rahman – who is the president of the Hamtramck branch of the NAACP — saying that jail officials should not have “assumed” Chowdhury’s death was a suicide.
They said the missing genitalia “bears signs of torture” and “this indicates that he did not commit suicide but has been killed.”
Hackel said the death was treated and investigated as a homicide – as all suspicious deaths are treated. He said prisoners were questioned and a black light was brought in to see if blood was on any of the prisoners. Hackel said Chowdhury had locked his roommate out of their cell, put up a covering over the window and refused to open the door.
Fellow prisoners tried to get Chowdhury to open the door and his roommate pressed a button to summon guards, Hackel said. Video footage from outside the cell confirmed that prisoners tried to get Chowdhury to open the door.
Chowdhury used a standard jail-issued plastic razor — used for shaving — to cut himself, Hackel said.
Hackel said it is “unfortunate” that the Bangladesh community went to the media about the matter before contacting him. A Free Press story on the matter made it to the homepage of Yahoo.com on Wednesday. When questioned by The Review, Kamal Rahman said he assumed a group of Bangladeshis had met with Hackel.
He conceded that the group had not met with Hackel.
Hackel said the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office will also conduct a separate review of Chowdhury’s death, which is standard procedure. He said there is no proof that anyone was in the cell with Chowdhury at the time of his death.
He said the question about Chowdhury’s death wasn’t so much about “what” happened but “why” he committed the act.
“And we will likely never know,” he said.
Chowdhury’s attorney was quoted by local media saying that his client had not shown signs of depression or suicide.
Chowdhury, 22, of Sterling Heights, was being held on a charge of stabbing to death his 25-year-old wife, Suraia Miah.
According to media reports, Chowdhury gave investigators conflicting accounts of what happened to his wife. At first he told investigators that three men broke into their apartment and killed her.
He later said that his wife was fatally wounded by accident when he attempted to stop her from stabbing herself to death. His wife had 40 to 60 stab wounds.
Chowdhury came from Bangladesh in 2006 and wed Miah as part of an arranged marriage. She reportedly had left him at one time because she was afraid of him.
Their 2-year-old son slept through the stabbing of Miah, police say. The boy is being cared for by Miah’s relatives.
Chowdhury’s body was scheduled to be flown back to Bangladesh on Thursday, the day The Review went to press.
Members of the Bangladesh community were scheduled to meet with Hackel on Thursday to discuss the investigation of Chowdhury’s death.