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Morgan County sued over death of jail inmate

March 23, 2016

The estate of a woman who was found dead in a Morgan County Jail cell after jail staff allegedly knew she required medical attention has filed a federal wrongful death suit against the sheriff, jail staff and contracted health care providers.

Tammy Perez, 34, was found dead in the jail in Martinsville on Oct. 1, 2015. She had been convicted of Level 6 felony possession of a narcotic and sentenced to spend 40 days in jail with an option for treatment if she could secure placement, according to the suit and trial court records. According to the suit filed Tuesday, authorities knew when she was booked into jail on Sept. 28, 2015, that she had heroin in her system and would go through withdrawal while behind bars.

But Perez also had a lifelong adrenal gland disorder that required daily medication that a relative had provided to jail staff with instructions. The complaint says Perez could not keep food or the medicine in her system, though. As she became sicker, her cellmates allegedly implored jail staff to take her to a hospital, which she had also pleaded for. A correctional officer at one point told Perez to “stop being a drama queen,” the complaint alleges.

As her condition worsened, the complaint says Perez was moved to an individual holding cell on Sept. 30. In the early morning hours of Oct. 1, a Martinsville police officer who knew Perez brought an arrestee to the jail, and when he saw her name on a whiteboard, he decided to check on her. He found her dead, the complaint says, noting that responding medical personnel found rigor mortis had set in, indicating Perez had been dead for an extended time.

A Morgan County jail commander contacted Wednesday said he had not seen the complaint and could not comment.

The complaint alleges deliberate indifference to Perez’s medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and negligence and wrongful death under state law.

 

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