Harry Statley in his younger days
(This report has been expanded.)
Shirley Statley was alarmed when her phone rang Tuesday in her Bird City, Kan. home at 12:38 a.m.
“I thought -- who in the world could be calling me at this time?” she said. She looked at time on the phone, and it stuck in her mind – 12:38 a.m.
On the other end of the call, a woman at Great Plains Regional Hospital in North Platte said Shirley’s son Harry had just arrived at the hospital from the Lincoln County Jail.
Shirley, who lives three hours from North Platte, didn’t know what to do.
Statley, who was in jail on drug charges, complained of chest pains around 10:30 p.m., according to a statement from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. A detention officer offered first aid, then took him to the hospital at a time that was unspecified in the sheriff's statement.
Statley was eventually transferred to Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney, where he was pronounced dead around 6:30 a.m.
His death is under investigation by the North Platte Police.
Doctors told the family that his arteries were blocked. He needed four stents. They could not save him, Shirley told the Bulletin.
Shirley, as well as Harry’s sister Carrie, are stunned at Harry’s death. Carrie and her husband Milan talked to Harry before noon on Monday at the jail – just 12 hours or so before he was taken to the hospital. He seemed fine.
Carrie said when she saw her brother Monday, Harry’s eyes lit up. She said Harry was happy that she and her husband Milan were looking after his trailer house. He was glad when they said they fixed his washing machine.
As they talked, he mentioned that he was looking forward to having lunch – a sign of a healthy appetite.
Now that Harry is gone, they want answers.
“We wonder if he was given something,” Carrie told the Bulletin Thursday. “Maybe something happened in jail to cause it; we just don’t know. It was too sudden.”
Carrie and Milan, who live in Bird City, Kan., are in North Platte these days to learn all they can, painstakingly going over what they know happened that night.
At 1:30 a.m., Shirley’s phone rang again. A sheriff’s officer told her they were letting Harry go – that he would be free to go home with her once got out of the hospital, if that’s what he wanted.
The officer, a man, added that the hospital might want to keep him for awhile, Shirley said.
Within a half hour, she got another call from the Great Plains Regional Medical Center. A nurse said that Harry was in the cath lab. He had aspirated and was on a respirator. Shirley should get there as fast as she could.
Shirley, her daughter Carrie and Carrie’s husband Milan made their way during the night to Oberlin, 60 miles away, where they got in with Harry’s brother. They started the three-hour drive to North Platte, but along the way, they got a call from the hospital advising them to go to Kearney, because Harry had been life-flighted to Good Samaritan.
By the time they arrived in Kearney at 7 a.m., Harry was dead.
Milan said doctors said Harry arrived at Good Samaritan around 3 a.m. and doctors worked on him for two hours but couldn’t save him.
Milan said two stents were apparently inserted at the North Platte hospital. He’d flat-lined once in North Platte and was resuscitated. He was sent to Kearney for more extensive surgery, and Milan understood the doctor to say that he flatlined again during the trip.
Fighting back tears, Carrie told the Bulletin that she wanted to help her brother and was heartbroken to find him dead.
There wasn’t anything she could do for him.
“He’d used drugs,” Carrie said. “I’m not going to say he didn’t. But he was cleaning up. He wasn’t a dealer; maybe (he handled) a little in the middle, but wasn't really dealing.”
Both Carrie and Milan said Harry quit drinking a year ago. They’d seen the same bottle of beer in his refrigerator repeatedly over several months when they visited.
Harry Statler was a scrappy kid growing up in Brush, Colorado. Born without a full hipbone, he wore a brace every day until he entered junior high. Carrie said it didn’t slow him down.
“He could climb a tree like a monkey,” she said.
After he graduated from high school, he lived with an older brother in South Dakota, then made his way to North Platte about 15 years ago.
He'd received social security disability payments because of his hip, but about five years ago he landed a job with Subway, where he worked until late 2013. He lost his disability income because he was working.
His life took a turn for the worse about five months ago, when he was let go from his job.
Without income, Stately couldn’t pay bills. His utilities were shut off as winter arrived. He managed to survive in his trailer house with the help of a neighbor who let him run an extension cord so he could have a little electricity.
He grew depressed during the winter, talked of suicide. His mother Shirley gathered up some cash to help with rent. Carrie and Milan drove to North Platte to bring it to him. They did what they could and encouraged him that life would get better.
Carrie said her brother seemed to improve. He got some of his bills paid with help of his mother and looked pretty good when they visited two months ago.He was talking to his old boss, hoping to get his job back soon.
But between then and his arrest in early March, Harry inexplicably lost 50-60 pounds.
Carrie said sometime along the way, his life got tangled with Daniel Endicott and Roxanne Duran. She and Milan said Endicott and Roxanne moved in a couple months ago.
“They were into meth, apparently,” Carrie said.
Carrie said police searched Harry’s home in late February.
"A guy he was riding with was pulled over,” Carrie said. “My understanding is they asked Harry if they could search the house and he said okay. They didn’t find anything."
But a week or so later, on March 2, police went to the trailer house, acting on a tip, they said. They found several grams of meth, along with a large amount of cash. They arrested both Endicott and Statley, charging them with possession of meth with intent to deliver, a class II felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison.
Milan said Harry was mild-mannered and liked to please people. Milan and Carrie suspect that Endicott and Roxanne manipulated Harry and he couldn’t say no.
Harry's life slid downhill until he hit bottom.
When he was arrested, Carrie and Milan drove to North Platte to visit him at the jail. He seemed dazed. His eyes were glazed. He talked about getting out on bond, but there was no way, they said.
“He was incoherent,” Carrie said. “He didn’t comprehend too well. It was like he was drugged, but not on meth. He talked about bond money, said there was a $10,000 bond and he’d be out soon. But it was a $50,000 bond and there was no money for it.”
They also received a short, sad letter that Harry had written to them after he was jailed, thanking them.
“I’m thankful I have you and your husband in my life,” Harry neatly printed in pencil in the letter. “I just hope you know that I love you guys and I thank you so much for everything you two are doing for me.”
Harry urged them to take good care of his two dogs.
"Sorry I'm crying well love you guys," he wrote.
Carrie and Milan returned two weeks later for another visit, less than 24 hours before he died.
They said he looked fine. At first, the spoke with them over a camera and telephone from the cell pod, but seemed nervous. They said he kept looking back over his shoulder.
The visit was moved to a private room with a sheet of glass between them. There, he relaxed. His eyes were clear and sparkled when they talked of little things. He was happy they were taking care of his trailer house, cleaning it up, getting ready to repaint, and had fixed the washing machine.
That jail visit, which started at 10:50 a.m., lasted until 11:30 a.m., Milan said. Harry chuckled over little things and mentioned that lunch was coming soon. He seemed to be looking forward to it.
Carrie was happy to see her brother feeling better. She and Milan returned to Kansas.
But according to investigators, that night, Harry told cellmate Daniel Endicott that he was having some chest pains. He thought it was indigestion.
But Harry’s pains continued, growing worse. Finally, Endicott called the detention staff for help when the lights were turned out – around 10:30 p.m. That’s what Carrie and Milan said they learned from police investigators.
They are stunned that he died.
“I don’t think that happens that quickly,” Carrie said. “He never complained of chest pains. He looked good that day. He didn’t even smoke. He had asthma; otherwise he was healthy.”
Harry’s family doesn’t know why, if the jail staff was notified at 10:30 p.m., his mother was told at 12:38 a.m. that he had just been brought to the hospital.
They are not sure why a law officer called at 1:30 a.m. and said Harry was released from custody and was free to go wherever he wanted if the hospital released him.
They are not sure why Harry was transferred to Kearney in the middle of the night. They cannot believe that he had so many heart blockages when he seemed just fine a few hours before.
They suspect he might have been poisoned somehow. Maybe he was going to tell police about everything, which scared Endicott, who somehow managed to do him in.
“We don’t know,” Carrie said. “We can’t believe he was treated right.”
Lincoln County Attorney Rebecca Harling ordered an autopsy.
This report was first published Thursday and expanded Friday. To see Harry J. Statley's obituary, click on "Obituaries" on the yellow navigation bar at the top of the page. - Editor.