Inmate, 19, said she'd kill herself 'first chance she got.' But wasn't on suicide watch. Why?
She attempted suicide after spending 3 weeks in jail on a misdemeanor charge
SAN ANTONIO – When she was arrested July 6 on a misdemeanor charge, she told authorities at the Bexar County Jail that she was going to kill herself the first chance she got.
On July 27, after nearly three weeks in jail, the 19-year-old was found hanging from a bed sheet in her cell. The prisoner, who KSAT is not naming, is now on life support after the suicide attempt.
Despite the threats, which are outlined in an incident report obtained by the Defenders, officials with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office said they did not have her on "suicide watch," which requires jail staff to make face-to-face cell checks on the inmate every 15 minutes.
Instead, they had the 19-year-old inmate in solitary confinement, citing a history of disruptive behavior during her stay at the jail. While in solitary confinement, officers performed the checks every 30 minutes.
"This inmate was provided mental health and medical treatment during her incarceration," said Johnny Garcia, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office. "In each instance where this inmate displayed suicidal ideations, jail staff involved University Health Systems staff and adhered to the recommendations of their doctors."
It isn't clear how long she was in solitary confinement.
Questions surround the imprisonment of the woman, who was being held on a Class A misdemeanor charge of making a terroristic threat against a family member. Her bail was set at $800, meaning it likely would've taken $80 to get out of jail.
However, sources said the 19-year-old was in state foster care and may have aged out of the system, leaving her with few advocates and relatives to come to her aid.
Earlier this year, Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales implemented a personal recognizance bond program for non-violent offenders after inmates Jack Ule and Janice Dotson-Stephens, both held on bails no more than $500, died at the jail.
The 19-year-old inmate did not qualify for the personal recognizance program due to the fact that her charges were for family violence and because she had threatened to kill herself.
Woman arrested for threats days after release from psychiatric facility
Her arrest stemmed from a July 6 incident in which she allegedly threatened a relative with whom she had been staying. Two days prior, she had been released from a psychiatric hospital, the report states.
According to the responding deputy’s narrative, the 19-year-old became upset after her relative told her she needed to find a new place to stay.
The report states that the woman was “overwhelmed with so much rage” and told her relative, “If I can’t live here, I’ll f-----g kill you.”
The relative told authorities she called 911 truly believing the 19-year-old would kill her and her children.
As the relative waited for deputies to arrive, she pushed the 19-year-old out of the home. When the 19-year-old got to the doorway, she told her relative, “B----h I’ll burn you and your f-----g house down,” the report states.
When confronted by deputies, the 19-year-old said she did threaten to burn the house down but was “only singing lyrics to a YG song.”
After she was arrested and taken to the jail, the woman told officials she was going to “kill herself the first chance she got.” All detention staff was made aware of the threat.
Inmate voiced suicidal tendencies on multiple occasions while at jail, BCSO says
The Sheriff's Office said Monday night that while the inmate wasn't on suicide watch at the time of her attempt, they had "involved University Health Systems staff and adhered to the recommendations of their doctors" each time she exhibited suicidal tendencies.
"This incident is currently under investigation by BCSO Internal Affairs and by the Public Integrity Unit to verify that all policies and jail standards were met," the Sheriff's Office said in a statement.
Officials said they were unable to go into detail about the inmate's "specific medical history."
"Apparently there were some red flags"
Gonzales told the Defenders on Monday that the day before the woman's suicide attempt, the prosecutor on the woman's case had discussed the possibility of releasing her on a personal recognizance bond, but her attorney had expressed concerns about what would come after.
"My understanding is the court prosecutor conferred with the defense lawyer and made available several options, including the potential for a PR bond," Gonzales said. "(The defense attorney's) response was that he was not ready to accept an offer of a PR bond and wanted to confer with her to talk with her about the possibility of being released on a PR bond.
"My understanding is that (her attorney) was concerned because she was homeless that she would be out on the street."
KSAT reached out to her attorney for comment, but did not hear back at the time of this publication.
Gonzales said the woman, who had been living with her aunt, had apparently made the threat against her aunt's home.
He agreed that, ultimately, someone outside of his office may have dropped the ball.
"Apparently there were some red flags, and someone should've caught this at the magistrate level -- someone should have been alerted to the fact that she indicated that she had at least thought about suicide, and so that is a concern of mine," he said.
Gonzales also defended his prosecutor's handling of the case, stating that the magistrate prosecutor made the right call in not agreeing to the issuance of a PR bond for an individual with suicidal tendencies who is also charged with making a terroristic threat against relatives.
"I wish that someone had alerted the right authorities to deal with this," Gonzales said of the woman's mental health issues. "But I'm confident that my employees did the appropriate thing."
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