Family sues Public Storage, a year after their son was found dead in Arlington unit

A North Texas family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a storage unit business in Arlington where their son was found dead on April 3, 2023.

Arlington police found 27-year-old Debony Maffett II inside a Public Storage unit in the 5200 block of South Cooper Street about a week after his family reported him missing.

Maffett was lying unresponsive on top of a sleeping bag in the unit when officers arrived, according to police.

Authorities were able to find Maffett with the assistance of a private investigator his family had hired. When he was first reported missing, police officers tried to ping his cellphone and searched locations where he was known to go.

The private investigator learned that Maffett had purchased a storage unit at the Public Storage complex and might have been living out of it, according to police.

When the private investigator went to check out the unit, which the family says was locked from the outside and had to be broken open, he found Maffett’s body inside.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Maffett died due to an accidental overdose of K2, the family’s attorney, Justin Moore, told the Dallas Morning News. K2 is a synthetic cannabinoid.

Now, his family is suing the storage company, accusing it of negligence causing Maffett’s death, including by allowing him to sleep in his storage unit in violation of policy.

According to the lawsuit, Debony Maffett II’s father, Debony Maffett I, provided a Public Storage employee with a flyer on April 2, 2023, regarding his son and asked if the complex was renting to him.

The employee said that his son was not renting a unit. The father then asked the employee if he could call the police if they located his son, to which the employee responded “oddly” by saying “he never saw him,” the lawsuit states.

Later that day, the employee called the father and asked, “If I did see your son, what would you want me to do,” and Maffett I reminded him to report it to police.

The employee replied to the father that he might have seen Maffett II in the past and that he might be on the premises of the Public Storage complex. The employee also said Maffett II might be a renter, the lawsuit states.

The father asked the employee if he could look on the property for his son, but the employee said no and that only authorized customers had access, according to the suit.

The only way the father I could look for his son on the property is if police were to accompany him, the employee told him.

When Arlington police arrived at the Public Storage complex that day, the employee locked himself in an office, the suit states. The officers used a code to enter the security gate and search the facility for Maffett II and the employee.

Officers told the father that all of the lockers and units were locked and that they saw no sign of his son or the employee, the suit states.

It wasn’t until the private investigator spoke to a manager the next day and was given access to the storage area that Maffett II was found, according to the suit.

The autopsy reported signs of decomposition on Maffett II’s body, indicating he had been dead for some time.

Public Storage has not yet responded to the Star-Telegram’s request for comment.

The suit says Public Storage acted negligently by failing to provide proper accommodations, violating their duties by refusing to rent or lease a storage unit to the father, and failing to maintain a safe environment, resulting in the man’s death.

Public Storage also acted negligently by failing to let police know Maffett II was on the company’s premises when an employee was made aware he was missing, the suit states.

Per rental policy and procedures, renters are not allowed to live in storage units, according to the suit. Public Storage “aided” Maffett II by not taking the steps to “eliminate the danger” or warn Maffett II and other customers of the dangers of living in units, the family’s attorney said.

The Maffett family seeks compensation and restitution for economic damages, exemplary damages, court costs, and attorney fees.