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$2 Million Settlement After Woman Dies While Jailed for Unpaid Traffic Tickets

by Anthony W. Accurso

A woman was booked into jail in Mineral County, Nevada on traffic violations, and died days later due to medical neglect.

Kelly Coltrain, 27, was visiting her family in July 2017 to celebrate a family reunion and her grandmother’s 75th birthday. After the celebrations, she was pulled over for speeding in Mineral County. Discovering that she had unresolved traffic violations in another county, deputies booked her into the Mineral County Jail (MCJ). Her bail was set at $1,750.

Coltrain initially refused to answer questions about her next of kin and medical conditions during the intake process. After learning the amount of her bail, she informed Sgt. Jim Holland that she was drug-dependant and had a history of seizures.

Despite a jail policy that required prisoners with a history of seizures to be reviewed by hospital staff prior to being admitted to the facility, MCJ placed Coltrain in a “max” cell where she was to be checked at least every 30 minutes. It was later determined that deputies rarely checked on her, instead preferring to watch her on video camera – which was also a violation of established jail policy.

Four hours after she was booked, Coltrain told MCJ staff that she needed to go to a hospital to address her withdrawal symptoms. Her request was denied by Deputy Ray Gulcynski, who told her, “Unfortunately, since you’re DTing, I’m not going to take you over to the hospital right now just to get your fix.”

Over the next few days, Coltrain ate little and slept often. She vomited in her cell on July 22, 2017 and was given fresh clothes and a mop by Sergeant Holland, who told her to clean up the mess. She did so without getting off her bunk. Later, Holland said he thought she was just being “lazy” and didn’t want to stand up to clean the floor.

Less than an hour later, Coltrain began convulsing. She stopped moving entirely at 6:26 p.m. Just after midnight, Deputy Gulcynski arrived to move her to another cell and found her unresponsive and cold to the touch. Twenty minutes later, he returned to check her pulse. He left her body locked in the cell until the next morning, when a forensic technician arrived to remove her body.

Following a wrongful death suit filed by Coltrain’s family, including her parents and grandmother, county officials agreed in February 2019 to a $2 million settlement plus four years of monitoring by the federal district court while the jail updates its policies and trains staff on how to identify and handle prisoners who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Although the Nevada Division of Investigation found that MCJ employees had violated policies, and referred the case to the local district attorney’s office, no criminal charges were filed.

One of the lawyers representing the family said the case was “the worst I have ever seen in 33 years,” and that “Coltrain suffered a protracted, extensive, painful, unnecessary death as a result of defendants’ failures.” See: Coltrain v. Mineral County, U.S.D.C. (D. Nev.), Case No. 3:18-cv-00420-LRH-CBC. 

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Additional sources: cnn.com, usnews.com, wusa9.com, rgj.com

Related legal case

Coltrain v. Mineral County