Family of inmate who died in Bexar County jail demands answers, plans to file lawsuit

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - A family is demanding answers after their loved one died in the Bexar County Jail while in custody on a criminal trespassing charge.

Janice Dotson-Stephens, 61, died one week ago. The medical examiner said she died of heart disease.

Dotson-Stephens had been held in the county jail since July.

On Friday, her family members announced that they're planning on filing a lawsuit against Bexar County. They said they feel like the system failed her.

“We just want to know what happened to our mother. That's all we want,” said Ronald Dotson, Dotson-Stephens’ son.

The family said the lawsuit would be filed against the county, the Sheriff's Office and the county hospital district. The family's attorney said family members believe Dotson-Stephens had a wrongful death due to negligence by the county in failing to treat her mental illness.

“The delays in her getting treatment -- is that because they are being indifferent?” said Les Sachanowicz, the Dotson family’s attorney.

Earlier this week, Dotson-Stephens’ daughter-in-law told KSAT that the family didn't know Dotson-Stephens was in jail.  On Friday, however, Dotson-Stephens’ son said the family knew she had been arrested.

“That was an error,” Ronald Dotson said. “We knew that was the last known place. That we knew.”

Dotson said this is not the first time this has happened to his mother, who he said had been battling paranoid schizophrenia and manic depressive disorder for 40 years.

The Bexar County Sheriff's Office said it cannot confirm if Dotson-Stephens was diagnosed with a mental health condition.

“We are aware she goes to jail. They normally find out that she has a mental illness. Then she goes to the state hospital,” Dotson said.

The Sheriff's Office said a court order is required for a hospital transfer.

“I know people questioning, ‘Well, you knew she was there.’ Well, we attempted to contact her for as long as we knew she was no longer in jail and she was not in the state hospital,” Dotson said.

Dotson-Stephens’ daughter, Michelle Dotson, said the family just wants the county to give them answers.

“There was more to her than just her mental illness,” Michelle Dotson said.

Court records show that Dotson waived her bond hearing.

In 2017, the Bexar County Sheriff's Office created a mental evaluation team to seek out inmates who might be showing signs of mental issues. We reached out to the Sheriff's Office. It said it has not been served with any legal documents and referred us to the District Attorney.

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