CLEVELAND – The R&B singer Sean Levert, who died at age 39 after falling ill in jail, suffered from a variety of ailments and died of natural causes, the county coroner ruled Thursday.
The 39-year-old Levert, a member of the 1980s R&B trio LeVert and son of lead O'Jays singer Eddie Levert, died March 31 at a hospital after he was taken from the Cuyahoga County jail. He was serving a 22-month sentence for failure to pay child support.
Levert's family had questioned officials' account that Levert had been acting strangely and was restrained before he fell ill. But in his ruling, County Coroner Frank Miller ruled out foul play or trauma.
Patti Webster, Levert's publicist, did not return a call seeking comment on the coroner's findings.
Miller said Levert died from complications of sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in body's organs. The coroner said Levert also suffered from other conditions, including cardiovascular disease and withdrawal from alprazolam — a drug used to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks.
After Levert died, jail warden Kevin McDonough said he had been sick and guards were watching him because he had been acting strangely. When he started pounding on his cell door, guards strapped him in a restraint chair, McDonough said. Levert's breathing became shallow and he was taken to the hospital.
Levert's family questioned McDonough's account and wanted the FBI to investigate. Levert's cousin, Michael Gibson, said Levert never had any outburst such as the type described by McDonough.
FBI spokesman Scott Wilson said in April that agents were willing to meet with Levert's family. Wilson said Thursday that the FBI was never contacted by the family.
Messages seeking comment from Sean Levert's publicist, Patti Webster, were not returned.
Levert and his brother Gerald formed LeVert in the 1980s with childhood friend Marc Gordon. Their hits included "Baby I'm Ready," "(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind" and "Casanova."
His brother died in 2006 at age 40 of an accidental mix of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
Sean Levert, who was trying to start the group LeVert again, had pleaded guilty in March to six counts of failure to pay child support. He was accused of failure to pay $89,025 to children ages 11, 15 and 17.
He had pleaded guilty in 1995 to drug abuse and was placed on probation and required to get treatment.