CARROLL COUNTY (KFSM) -- The family of a woman who died while in the custody of the Carroll County Sheriff`s Office has filed a lawsuit against a jail nurse and several deputies.
Records show Sylvia Donelson died in the Carroll County Jail on November 11, 2014. Her son, Lucas Poyner, and daughter, Ashley Chuc, said jail employees could have done more to save her life.
“I love her, and I miss her, and I am sorry I talked her into coming back to Carroll County," Poyner said. "The worst mistake I ever made."
Although Poyner and Chuc said they were close with their even if she was not always around when they were growing up.
“About four years ago, whenever she came back to Arkansas, I went and got her and she came back down here,” Poyner said. “At that time we got closer. She came down here to spend more time with her grandkids."
Within that time, Donelson had been jailed at least five times in Carroll County for public intoxication, second-degree battery, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, filing a false police report and terroristic threatening, according to court records. Each time she was booked out of jail on her own recognizance or surety bond, records show.
“If there was ever a time where she did not take her medication, it made her act different," Poyner said. "I think that is what led up to it, to the very first arrest."
Records show the 47-year-old had a history of mental illness and a number of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses.
When Donelson she was jailed the jail nurse noted that Donelson was taking trazodone, lithium, to treat bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia, and lorazepam, to treat anxiety disorders, the lawsuit states. The nurse also noted Donelson had recently been to a mental health facility in Nashville, Tennessee, according to the lawsuit. A discharge summary from the facility shows Donelson was treated there for several days in July and was diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder with psychotic features, post-traumatic stress disorder, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and gout.
Lucas and Ashley do not believe Donelson should have been in jail given her mental state.
“I think behavioral health would have done her a lot better,” Chuc said. “I mean she had been in and out of them before, but if she had been made to stay and actually get the treatment that she needed, I know she would be alive today, she would still be with us.”
Records state the day before her death, officers moved Donelson to a cell near the booking area where she could be watched more closely after she was found lying on the floor of her cell and only able to mumble.
On the morning of her death, Donelson had not eaten or drank for 24 hours and continued to be unresponsive, according to the lawsuit. During the course of the day, the jail nurse and several deputies found Donelson in a puddle of her own urine and put a piece of sandwich in her mouth, which was still there six hours later, the lawsuit states. The nurse and an EMT, who was called in from Carroll County Regional Medical Center, both found Donelson's vitals to be normal, but she was never taken to a hospital until deputies found her without a pulse, the lawsuit states.
Steven Vowell filed the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the Donelson family claiming the nurse and deputies did not do enough to help their mother.
“Before the actual date of her death, her condition actually crashed and nothing was done about it,” Vowell said.
An autopsy report states Donelson's cause of death was atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease with bipolar disorder listed as a contributing cause.
“I hate that it had to happen to my mom first of all, but I mean, I do not want it to happen to anybody else's family,” Poyner said.
Carroll County Sheriff Randy Mayfield, who took over the position in January, said the sheriff's office has no comment since the lawsuit is pending. 5NEWS also contacted the attorney representing the defendants, but did not receive a phone call back on Monday.
Arkansas State Police investigated Donelson's death while Bob Grudek was the sheriff.
To read the lawsuit, click here.