Medical condition suspected in death of third inmate to die in last two months, but sheriff asks for independent investigation
Sheriff’s department officials believe a Grafton man who was found dead in his Ozaukee County jail cell Sunday — just two months after two other inmates committed suicide — died of a medical condition probably related to drug abuse, Undersheriff Jim Johnson said Monday.
Emanuel M. Washington, 53, who was found unconscious in a special holding cell at 2:48 a.m. Aug. 11, was being treated for heroin withdrawal in the jail, Johnson said.
Washington was arrested Wednesday, Aug. 7, for driving while intoxicated and had been in jail since 11:52 p.m. that day, according to the sheriff’s department.
Washington is the third Ozaukee County inmate to die or suffer fatal injuries while in the jail since June 5.
On June 9, Bridgitt A. Moorehead, 41, who authorities said was from Charleston, S.C., but listed a motel in Mequon as her address, was found dead in her single-person cell at around 7:50 a.m. Moorehead, who had been arrested by Mequon police and was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, hung herself with bedding, authorities said.
A week later, at 10:47 p.m. Sunday, June 16, 42-year-old Sonia Mojica of Port Washington was found unresponsive in her single-person cell. Mojica, who was charged with misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and bail jumping, hung herself using bedding but was revived by deputies and emergency medical technicians, according to the sheriff’s department. She died June 22 at a hospital.
The sheriff’s department investigated the deaths, which authorities said were unrelated, and determined they were suicides. Johnson said both women went through standard suicide screenings and showed no indication they were likely to take their lives.
The sheriff’s department is now investigating the death of Washington and have asked the Washington County Sheriff’s Department to conduct an independent investigation.
“We believe he (Washington) died of natural causes or because of a medical condition,” said Johnson, who noted that Washington suffered from high blood pressure. “We have no evidence of any sort of external cause, but we have requested Washington County review the incident to make sure there is transparency.”
A autopsy was performed but the medical examiner will not release a report until the results of toxicology tests are available, Johnson said.
When Washington was brought to the jail after being arrested for driving while intoxicated, he was given a preliminary test that showed he had no alcohol in his system, Johnson said.
But he exhibited signs of drug use and was put on the jail’s standard heroin withdrawal protocol, Johnson said. He was being given Suboxone, a drug commonly used to treat the symptoms of withdrawal, and was being held in a special high-visibility cell within the jail’s holding area so deputies could watch him closely.
At 2:48 a.m. Sunday, a jailer conducting a regular jail inspection saw Washington presumably sleeping but decided to go into the cell and check on him, Johnson said.
“One of our deputies thought there was something unusual, so he got another deputy for security reasons and went in (the cell),” said Johnson, who added he does not know why the deputy became concerned about Washington.
Deputies worked unsuccessfully for about 40 minutes to resuscitate Washington, according to the sheriff’s department. Although he was arrested for first-offense driving while intoxicated — a traffic offense punishable by a fine and license suspension — Washington was being held in jail for allegedly violating the conditions of his probation ordered in another case.
According to court records, Washington pleaded guilty in February 2008 to a felony charge of possession with intent to deliver heroin in Milwaukee County and was sentenced to four years in prison and four years extended supervision.