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$250,000 Settlement in Ohio Detainee’s Jail Suicide

Officials in Lorain County, Ohio have settled a lawsuit stemming from a pretrial detainee’s suicide death.

When police arrived at Cheryl Sweeney’s home on May 26, 2012 because her husband had passed away, they arrested her on an outstanding warrant for failure to pay fines. During the booking process at the Elyria City Jail, the attending medical staff placed Sweeney, 51, on a “clinical log,” noting she was distressed from the death of her husband the night before.

Clinical log requires that a detainee be checked every 15 minutes. A medical screening noted Sweeney had chronic medical problems, including substance abuse of “Benzo” and “Etoh” (alcohol). The medical staff ordered her to stay on clinical log until her release, and she said she did not “want to be around other people,” preferring to be housed alone.

Guard Stacy C. Daniels was assigned to Sweeney’s housing unit on May 28, 2012. He exited the pod at 9:33 a.m. Half an hour later, a prisoner cleaning the area outside Sweeney’s cell saw her hanging from a bed sheet attached to the window bars. Her hands and mouth were purple. The prisoner pushed the emergency intercom button and alerted Daniels.

Daniels entered the cell to find Sweeney on her knees, hanging from the bed sheet. He “casually walked” out of the cell to retrieve a cut down tool. Another guard who responded to the emergency call “lackadaisically walked” to the cell. Two minutes after leaving, Daniels slowly returned and cut the bed sheet.

Haphazard attempts to revive Sweeney were made and she was pronounced dead after being transported via lifeflight to a hospital. Her estate sued, claiming negligence, deliberate indifference to her serious medical needs, interference or destruction of evidence as indicated by differences between the on-site log and surveillance video footage, and wrongful death.

The county eventually agreed to settle the case for $250,000. Sweeney’s estate was represented by attorneys Jeffrey H. Friedman, Christine M. Salvia and Terry H. Gilbert. See: Sweeney v. Lorain County, Court of Common Pleas for Lorain County (OH), Case No. 13CV179270. 

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Related legal case

Sweeney v. Lorain County