Sheriff Tim Ryals is following up on a 2017 investigation of the Faulkner County Detention Center that showed jail staff did not follow protocol in the days leading up to the death of an inmate.
FCDC Maj. John Randall conducted an internal investigation of the county jail following the November 2017 death of an inmate and determined jail staff did not follow protocol.
The investigation was conducted after inmate Linda S. Warner, 59, of Greenbrier was pronounced dead at Baptist Health Medical Center in Conway on Nov. 23, 2017. Warner had been in the FCDC's custody following an Oct. 30, 2017, arrest after she allegedly violated a no contact order.
County Attorney David Hogue told the Log Cabin Democrat on Friday that county officials are re-addressing this issue and determining what steps to take from here to prevent future incidents such as the accusations included in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the sheriff's office regarding Warner's death.
Hogue also confirmed that none of the 22 individuals accused of neglecting Warner were fired following the investigation that found jail staff was at fault for Warner's death.
"Several employees directly involved have moved or been moved. Some have moved on to jobs outside the agency and some have moved out of detention but stayed with the agency," he said. "Sheriff Ryals is currently re-examining the whole situation to determine if further action should be taken. There were, and are, policies in place to avoid a problem like this, and now leadership is working to determine exactly where the hole is so that they can mend whatever is actually broken rather than fixing something that isn't broken just to say they took action."
The wrongful death suit filed on Warner's behalf by her daughter Christine Turner accuses 22 sheriff's office employees of neglecting the 59-year-old, including:Sheriff Tim Ryals. Cpt. Chris Riedmueller. Sgt. Bobbie Spivey. Cpl. Anita Wright. Correctional officer Michelle Maher. Correctional officer Teresa Coleman. Correctional officer Maria Hill. Correctional officer Taylor Haney. Correctional officer Eric Whitcomb. Correctional officer Marissa Parks. Correctional officer Katie Martin. Cpl. Anna Pope. Correctional officer Christopher Lisembey-Hall. Correctional officer Thad Kilpatrick. Cpl. Tyroneisha Collins. Correctional officer Malik Clemons. Sgt. Calene Scott. Correctional officer Taneisha Jernigan. Medical assistant Leanne Dixon. Dr. Garry Stewart. Nurse Karen D. Grant. Nurse Monte J. Munyan.
At this point, no policies have been altered, Hogue told the Log Cabin on Friday.
Ryals said the sheriff's office was prompted to re-evaluate its policies to ensure inmates are kept safe following this incident and that officials are working to delve into the circumstances surrounding Warner's death.
"The sheriff's office is certainly interested in taking all reasonable steps within our means to preserve the health and safety of inmates," he said. "We are constantly seeking better conditions for inmates and employees alike. This event has prompted us to dig even deeper into ways to improve our facilities, treatment and protection of all involved. We hope everyone in the county will join us in prioritizing improved conditions."
Of the findings reported in Randall's internal affairs report following Warner's November death, he said jail staff did not properly conduct cell checks, were given false policy information by a sergeant and failed to follow FCDC's emergency health care policy.
In his findings, Randall noted detention staff failed to conduct proper cell checks nine out of 10 times.
Online records show he also determined a detention sergeant gave false policy information to other officers, referring to an incident where jailers were specifically instructed by Sgt. Spivey not to use a wheelchair to help Warner back to her cell after she fell in the floor after being denied assistance by the jail’s onsite doctor.
Jessica Virden-Mallett, who filed the complaint in Faulkner County Circuit Court regarding the allegations against the sheriff’s office on Warner’s daughter’s behalf, noted in previously filed documents that Stewart, the jail’s onsite doctor, denied helping Warner because she would not answer his questions. He reportedly asked her if she could speak English and accused Warner of refusing treatment. Virden-Mallett also noted other jail staff knew Warner was having difficulty standing and walking on her own and that Warner was in a great deal of pain in the moments leading up to her fall.
According to the FCDC emergency health care policy: "All perceived emergency medical situations shall receive immediate attention. Emergency situations will have priority over routine detention facility operations until the emergency is resolved."
While this is the policy at hand, it does not appear from the accusations made by Turner that this protocol was followed.
The policy defines, but does not limit to, emergency medical situations as severe bleeding, unconsciousness, serious breathing difficulties, head injury, severe pain, suicide attempt, onset of unusual behavior or severe burns.
According to the complaint, jail staff ruled on Nov. 2 to discontinue testing Warner's blood sugar, despite Warner having Type II Diabetes Mellitus and being insulin dependent. Online records show Warner began complaining of "tummy problems" and urinary incontinence on Nov. 5 and that her conditions became increasingly more serious after she was denied assistance both on Nov. 5 and following a Nov. 8 request to see the in-house doctor.
The complaint log filed by Virden-Mallett states Warner began having difficulty walking by Nov. 14 and that Warner had developed a rash on her groin by Nov. 15 due to the urinary problems she'd complained of.
Warner's family says Warner was forced multiple times to lay in her urine-soaked mattress for extended periods of time and that jail staff new Warner showed to have a tachycardic heart rate on Nov. 18.
Virden-Mallett also addressed an alleged incident where Stewart denied helping Warner because she would not answer his questions. He reportedly asked if she could speak English and accused Warner of refusing treatment. Virden-Mallett noted other jail staff knew Warner was having difficulty standing and walking on her own and that she was in a great deal of pain.
“After Ms. Warner was forced to leave sick call, she collapsed in the hallway,” the complaint reads. “Her condition was relayed to Dr. Stewart and Nurse Munyan, who ignored the distress Ms. Warner was in.”
At this point, the timeline graphically describes jailers being instructed to drag Warner out of the hallway following failed attempts to revive her with an ammonia capsule.
As she laid in the floor, FCDC staff checked her vital signs and her glucose level, which was 502 and Stewart reportedly administered 12 units of insulin on Warner. After receiving the insulin, Warner was reportedly left “sweating and unresponsive” in the hallway.
According to the jail's health care policy, emergency personnel should have been called to the scene long before this point.
Instead, jailers were instructed to drag Warner out of the hallway, and, according to the complaint, were specifically ordered not to use a wheelchair to move Warner from one room to the next.
On Nov. 22, Warner was reportedly found “unconscious, laying in her own feces and urine, struggling to breath.”
Jail staff learned Warner’s heart rate was 136 and that her oxygen saturation was at 75-78 percent. However, the FCDC doctor was not immediately alerted of the incident. Instead, the complaint alleges staff members opted to text Dr. Stewart and did not call 911.
Eventually, paramedics were called to the scene. When they arrived at the jail, Warner was in cardiac arrest.
Baptist Health medical staff diagnosed Warner with severe sepsis with septic shock, diabetic ketoacidosis, upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage, acute kidney failure and rhabdomyolysis, noting her blood sugar “was greater than 600” when she was admitted into the emergency room shortly before midnight Nov. 22.
Online records show an autopsy later found “Warner died of Sepsis due to Purulent Peritonitis due to Ruptured Appendicitis” and that she also “had purulent adhesions and purulent yellow fluid in all quadrants of her abdomen."
On Friday, an attorney representing county officials filed a response to Turner's complaint. While the "official records of the Faulkner County Circuit Court speak for themselves" the defendants "are otherwise without sufficient knowledge or information to either admit or deny the allegations."
No court date regarding this matter had been scheduled by press time Saturday.