By Robert J. Hansen | OBSERVER Staff Writer

Jamie Reed (Courtesy of Voice of the Youth)
Jamie Reed (Courtesy of Voice of the Youth)

Blanchie Matlock spoke with Sacramento police detectives more than three months ago when her 39-year-old niece, Jamie Reed, was found dead in the Kaiser South parking structure July 24.

She still does not know how she died.

“The detective called maybe twice and that was it,” Matlock said.

The Sacramento County Coroner’s Office classified the cause of death of Reed, a hospital employee, as undetermined. Sac PD told The OBSERVER that no foul play is suspected at this time.

Reed’s family and community advocates are baffled at how a mother of six with no preexisting conditions can be found dead in a parking lot without suspicion of foul play.

Berry Accius, community advocate and founder of Voice of the Youth, has been supporting Reed’s family during this troubling time.

“It just seems like when it comes to women of color that died suspiciously, the process feels neverending,” Accius said. “There doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency to solve the case.”

Reed’s aunt feels the same way.

“Because my niece is Black, I don’t think the police are taking the investigation seriously,” Matlock said.

Juanita Matlock, Reed’s younger sister, said in September that police have not provided the family with any information.

“I feel like we could have had results sooner,” Matlock said. “I just don’t know how there isn’t any video surveillance of what happened.”

Jamie Reed’s six children. (Courtesy of Voice of the Youth)
Jamie Reed’s six children. (Courtesy of Voice of the Youth)

Accius said there was video surveillance in the parking structure.

“We know that they had cameras. We know there are security guards there,” Accius said. “This didn’t happen at someone’s home or in some dark alley.”

A police spokesperson said they are awaiting the coroner’s report before investigating the incident further.

“At this time, there is nothing suspicious, it is not being ruled a homicide,” the spokesperson said.

Family members said a toxicology report has been provided that shows no sign of drugs in Reed’s system, nor anything hinting that drugs were the cause of her death.

Angela Parreno with the coroner’s office told The OBSERVER that the cause and manner of Reed’s death are pending until it finalizes its report, which can take six months or more. Once the report is finalized, next of kin will be notified and given “the final cause and manner of death,” Parreno said in an email.

A spokesperson for Kaiser said that to protect the integrity of the investigation, the hospital cannot comment on any aspect of the case. “But our hearts continue to go out to Jamie’s family, friends, and colleagues as they try to cope with this painful loss.”

Rosa Vega, a coroner’s spokesperson, said deaths are classified to be of undetermined causes either because the manner of death cannot be determined despite thorough investigation; nor through autopsy, toxicology or other ancillary tests; or the incident requires further investigation by law enforcement.

“It can take anywhere from six months to a year to close out a case to determine the manner and/or cause of death,” Vega said.

The coroner’s office said it had no information on the number of deaths annually that are categorized as undetermined, only that it can vary greatly.

An OBSERVER analysis found at least 218 deaths of undetermined cause in Sacramento County from Oct. 1, 2022, to the start of October this year.

Sacramento County’s deaths by undetermined causes from October 2022 through September 2023, according to data from the coroner’s office. (Robert J. Hansen)
Sacramento County’s deaths by undetermined causes from October 2022 through September 2023, according to data from the coroner’s office. (Robert J. Hansen)

During the same period, 88 homicides were committed in Sacramento County, according to the coroner. That means there were nearly 2½ times as many deaths from undetermined causes as homicides in that yearlong period. Black people accounted for 22% of undetermined deaths during this 12-month period, disproportionately higher than the population of Black people in Sacramento County.

Had it not been for Accius and the family speaking out, the public might never have known about Reed’s death.

Police said press releases typically are issued when there is a homicide, fatal vehicle collision that involves a criminal matter or when there’s a high-profile arrest.

“We don’t put them out for suspicious deaths or every death investigation,” the police spokesperson said. “But unless it’s a homicide, we’re generally not going to put out a press release.”