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Father of Man Strangled While in Missouri Jail Accepts Settlement

by Christopher Zoukis

George Stevens, whose son was strangled to death by another man while being held in a Missouri jail, agreed to a settlement with the city of St. Louis in response to his wrongful death lawsuit.

     On April 26, 2008, Michael Stevens and Robert Francis were taken to the Justice Center jail. Both allegedly informed Correctional Medical Services Inc. (CMS) staff that they each had mental health issues. CMS is responsible for recommending suitable holding scenarios, and the two men were housed together.

     Allegedly, while Officer Louis Soward was on a lunch break, Francis strangled Stevens. Other detainees tried calling for help but said there was no response for some time. The guards allegedly made no attempt to resuscitate Stevens, who was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.

     In May 2010, George Stevens and Helen Nickels, Michael Steven’s father and personal representative, filed a wrongful death complaint in federal court against Soward, Tonya Harry, Patricia Hall, Robert Bond, Carla Harrison, CMS and the city of St. Louis. The plaintiffs argued that CMS should not have placed two mentally ill people in the same cell, that Soward failed to make his required rounds, and that everyone failed to act on Francis’ erratic behavior earlier in the day.

     Stevens and Nickels sought damages and expenses.

     On June 12, 2012, the parties notified the court that a settlement had been agreed upon, and the case was dismissed by Judge Jean C. Hamilton on October 1.

See: Stevens, et al., v. City of St. Louis, et al., United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Case No. 4:10-cv-00951-JCH (June 12, 2012)

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Related legal case

Stevens, et al., v. City of St. Louis, et al.