Pitkin County Sheriff: Cord used in jail suicide ‘shouldn’t have been there’
The extension cord used by a Woody Creek woman to hang herself in the Pitkin County Jail was left over from a previous inmate and should not have been in her cell, Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Tuesday.
“We did something wrong,” DiSalvo said. “What’s wrong with saying that? Let the chips fall where they may. This cord shouldn’t have been there.
Jillian White, 64, was found dead in her cell Sunday evening. White, who’d been arrested multiple times for theft, drunken driving and other charges over the past decade, had been found incompetent to stand trial and was awaiting an appointment at the state psychiatric hospital in Pueblo or a private facility to restore her to competency.
The previous occupant of White’s cell needed oxygen, and a short extension cord was used to plug the oxygenator into an outlet in the cell, DiSalvo said. When the inmate moved out of the cell, the short extension cord remained and White moved in, he said. The sheriff said he thought a television might have been plugged into the extension cord.
“We should not have an unsecured cord in the jail,” DiSalvo said. “I guess somebody’s gotta start saying that.”
However, he said he didn’t think the fact that the cord was left out would lead to punitive measures for any jail deputies.
“I’m not sure it rises to the level of discipline,” DiSalvo said. “But we’re talking about it.”
Two deputies who were placed on administrative leave with pay after White was found were allowed back to work Tuesday morning, said Alex Burchetta, chief deputy of operations. DiSalvo said their return to work indicates their mental health is good and that “there’s no reason to put them on punitive leave at this point.”
Officials from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation have been called in to offer guidance in the Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into White’s death, DiSalvo said. They will act as a backstop and offer suggestions, he said.
White was last seen by deputies making a phone call between 15 and 30 minutes before she was found dead in her cell, DiSalvo said Monday. On Tuesday, he said her final call was to her mother.
Burchetta said White had not displayed any suicidal behavior prior to her body being found, and was not on suicide watch.
White’s lawyer filed a motion Friday that said she’d found a private facility that could restore White’s competency and allow her current legal cases to proceed, prosecutor Don Nottingham said Monday.
Attempts to reach White’s lawyer, Jennifer Longtin of Denver, on Monday and Tuesday have not been successful.
DiSalvo said he expects White’s death to be the subject of a civil lawsuit.
“I don’t know if we’re going to get sued, but my assumption would be yes,” he said.
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