Saturday, May 2, 2009

Woman dies in jail; family worries she didn't get meds

By Kameel Stanley and Rita Farlow, Times Staff Writers

Published Tuesday, March 24, 2009

LARGO — The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of a female inmate who died Tuesday morning after spending just more than a week in jail.

Sheriff's officials said the jail staff found 50-year-old Jennifer S. DeGraw of St. Petersburg unresponsive in her single-person cell at about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Deputies alerted the medical staff and called 911, and by 7:19, DeGraw was at Northside Hospital and Heart Institute.

She died about 25 minutes later, sheriff's officials said.

DeGraw, who had been booked March 16 on a charge of battery on a law enforcement officer, had been in the jail's medical building because of a pre-existing medical condition.

Sheriff's officials said her death is not suspicious, but an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause. Authorities did not release the nature of DeGraw's medical condition.

DeGraw's family said it has many questions.

The pre-existing condition DeGraw had was high blood pressure and bipolar disorder, said her sister, Angela Glasoe.

Glasoe said the family is reeling from DeGraw's death, and is worried that she may not have been getting her medicine while in jail.

Glasoe said her sister's husband had called police March 16 looking for help with his wife, who was having a manic episode. He had wanted authorities to use the state's Baker Act to commit her to a hospital for mental health care, Glasoe said.

Instead, DeGraw ended up in jail after she kicked a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy while he tried to place her in protective custody, an arrest affidavit says.

"She went to jail instead of the hospital and now she's dead," Glasoe said. "She had a very tragic life … but it didn't have to end in a jail. I don't blame them exclusively for this, but I believe that sick people shouldn't die in jail."

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