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Sheriff releases info on New Year's Day jail death

Emil Whitis • Jan 30, 2012 at 9:53 AM

The Erie County Sheriff's Office has released new evidence in the New Year's Day death of a jail inmate, including an investigative report and video footage recorded by the jail's surveillance cameras.

The cameras recorded the activities of corrections officers in the hours leading up to the death of Margaret Stallard, 50, of Sandusky.

Stallard was pronounced dead in her jail cell at about 9 a.m. Jan. 1, five hours after she was admitted to the facility.

Erie County Sheriff Terry Lyons maintains jailers did everything they could for Stallard, and he says none of his employees were negligent in her death.

Stallard's friend disagrees.

Perkins police arrested Stallard at about 3:20 a.m. on New Year's Day while responding to a call about a vehicle break-in on Kevin Drive.

An officer found her in a parked truck and arrested her for disorderly conduct intoxicated.

The officer's report said Stallard was "highly intoxicated" and she needed help getting into the police cruiser.

The officer took her to the jail at about 4 a.m.

Lisa Clem, Stallard's friend, said it was obvious Stallard was intoxicated.

Police or jail staff should have taken her to the hospital rather than placing her in a jail cell, Clem said.

"She couldn't hardly walk," Clem said. "She didn't even know who she was.

"I mean, come on, take the lady to the hospital."


The Erie County jail's policy outlines clear circumstances where a prospective inmate would be turned away on the basis of health issues.

If a person is unconscious or showing signs of illness or injury, they have to get prompt medical attention before they're admitted into the jail.

The jail's booking officer evaluates the arrested person to see if he or she is:

* conscious;

* experiencing severe physical disorders;

* displaying signs of severe mental disorder;

* contemplating suicide;

* requesting medical attention.

If the person fits any of these criteria, a shift supervisor makes a final determination. If the potential inmate is unconscious, the jail refuses custody until the arresting officer gets the person medical treatment.

In other instances, the shift supervisor can sometimes accept the inmate, but the medical condition must be documented.

Surveillance video shows Stallard was wobbly and walking slowly during the admissions process, but she was conscious.

"I immediately noticed that inmate Stallard was very unsteady on her feet and appeared to be half asleep," an Erie County jail corrections officer wrote in a report. "Inmate Stallard's speech was very slurred and hard to understand."

According to the report, Stallard said she was not suicidal and she never asked for medical attention.

Inside her purse, meanwhile, jail staff found two prescription pill bottles -- one containing 32 Xanax pills, the other holding five Elavil pills.

Staff bagged the pills and left them for the jail nurse, who was scheduled to arrive later that morning.

Prescription problems

When jail nurse Linda Scroggy got to work at about 6:50 a.m., she found Stallard's pill bottles in her work mailbox.

The jail's policy requires corrections officers to place an inmate's medication in the nurse's medical box. The nurse then records and verifies the particulars on the medication.

The label on Stallard's Xanax prescription bottle showed it was filled a day prior to her arrest.

The prescription was for 120 pills.

When Scroggy checked the bottle, it only contained 32 pills, according to a report she wrote.

She then began to issue morning medications to inmates.

"As I was passing morning medications in the female area (corrections officer) Worley had made a comment that (Stallard) was snoring very loudly," Scroggy's report stated. "After counting the pills I requested ... Worley to accompany me so that I could find out where the rest of the pills were."

When Scroggy and Worley entered Stallard's cell at about 8:45 a.m., the inmate was unresponsive and her lips were blue.

The nurse and the guard immediately tried to resuscitate her, and Stallard vomited at one point.

Perkins paramedics arrived within minutes and tried to help, but Stallard was pronounced dead in her cell.

Jail checks

The jail's policy requires staff to check each inmate's presence and movement at least once an hour.

After Stallard was admitted at about 4 a.m., corrections officers placed her in a cell with another woman, a jail report said.

When staff checked on her minutes later, Stallard was trying to wake up her cell mate. So they decided to move her to a solitary cell, the report said.

Video footage shows guards checking on Stallard 14 times with regularity in less than five hours, with one exception.

The footage shows that from 5:38 a.m. to 7:08 a.m. -- exactly an hour and a half -- no one checked in on Stallard.

In the final three checks, video footage would appear to indicate jail employees did not stop to look through the glass on Stallard's cell door.

In one of those instances, an employee relied on Stallard's loud snoring as proof she was OK.

Those three checks included:

* 7:50 a.m. -- Video footage shows corrections officer Sarah Worley pushing a towel rack past Stallard's cell. It's the last time jailers report hearing her snoring.

* 8:15 a.m. -- Nurse Linda Scroggy walks past Stallard's cell while pushing a pill cart.

* 8:45 a.m. -- Worley and Scroggy are seen entering the cell, finding Stallard unresponsive.


As of Thursday, the investigation into Stallard's death is still open. A coroner has not determined the cause of death.

After Stallard was declared dead, Erie County Corner Brian Baxter ordered her body shipped to the Lucas County coroner for an autopsy.

Investigators are still awaiting toxicology results, although preliminary findings don't show anything serious, Baxter said.

The Lucas County coroner did find several slight abnormalities during the autopsy, but nothing inconsistent with Stallard's age, Baxter said.

"She had an enlarged heart and some clotting," Baxter said. "There was nothing that she would have died from."

Baxter said the pending toxicology results will lead to a firm conclusion about what killed Stallard.

Clem believes her friend's death might have been avoided if she'd been taken to a hospital.

No jail employees have been disciplined in the wake of Stallard's death.

"Now, why would I do that?" Lyons said. "I'll stand by the fact that we did everything that should have been done with the information we had at the time."

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