Society

21-Year-Old Woman Begged For Help Before Dying In Jail

| by Michael Allen

A 21-year-old woman begged for help, and died in the Duchesne County Jail in Utah on Dec. 1, 2016, according to newly released medical records.

Madison Jensen wrote to jail workers on a medical request: "Can't hold anything down. Not even water," noted The Salt Lake Tribune on April 28.

Madison's medical records said she had lost at least 17 pounds, but possibly as much as 42 pounds during her fatal four-day jail stay. Madison told her jailers that she had been vomiting for all four days.

According to a medical examiner's report, Madison's death on a holding cell floor was listed as "natural" because she died from cardiac arrhythmia -- irregular heartbeat -- which was caused by dehydration and opiate withdrawal.

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"I know my body and it is not [detoxing]," Madison wrote. "I am completely detoxed. My roomate [sic] caught the stomach bug ... from me."

Madison, who was addicted to opiod painkiller tramadol, went to jail after her family called the Duchesne County Sheriff's Office in November 2016 because she was threatening to kill herself at home.

Madison's father, Jared Jensen, thought his daughter would be safe in jail under a suicide watch.

Madison's records show she was taking tramadol, Wellbutrin for depression and anxiety, and clonidine for high blood pressure.

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State medical examiner's office investigator John Crowley wrote that Madison was only receiving clonidine in jail "because the others had not been approved for Madison to take."

Matt Finch, an opiate withdrawal recovery specialist in California, told The Salt Lake Tribune: "She was going through opioid withdrawal syndrome and antidepressant withdrawal. I can't even imagine how much pain she was going through."

Crowley wrote that Madison weighed only 87 pounds at death, but medical examiners changed her final weight to 112 pounds.

Erik Christensen, the chief medical examiner, said that it's generally hard to know exactly how much a body weighs because the body may be in a bag or on a backboard.

While medical examiners in Utah may not able to get the specific weight of a dead human being, the state law says that a weighperson can lose their job for incorrectly weighing livestock for sale.

In their report, the medical examiners wrote that "withdrawal is a complication of chronic drug use and therefore, the manner of death is certified as natural," reported The Salt Lake Tribune on April 28.

Py Driscoll, an internal medicine doctor in California who works at a rehab center, told the newspaper that people can easily be treated for dehydration from withdrawal, and that dehydration is easily preventable.

"I've never had to send someone from our treatment program at Alta Mira to the hospital for dehydration," Driscoll said.

She recalled that caregivers treat addicts in withdrawal by "giving them medicines and giving them lots and lots of Gatorade every hour [and] making sure they're drinking."

The Salt Lake Tribune reported on April 9 that Maria Hardinger recalled that she and Madison were held together for several days in a cell, and repeatedly called for help as Madison vomited in her bed and on the cell walls.

According to Hardinger, her dying cellmate could not keep down any food or water, and was afraid that she would die in jail.

Megan Palmer, who was an inmate in the jail, recalled having to clean up Madison's vomit after she died: "We had to clean vomit off the walls, off the mattresses."

Duchesne County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Jeremy Curry said Hardinger and Madison were only together for a few hours before Madison was placed in a cell for medical surveillance.

"We have actual evidence and not just words to back it up," Curry said.

But the Duchesne County Sheriff's Office has refused to release actual evidence, specifically, the surveillance video of Madison's jail care.

The Uintah County Sheriff's Office and Duchesne County attorney have also refused to release records on Madison's treatment.

Jared's lawyer has filed a notice of claim against Curry, Duchesne County, Sheriff David Boren, Cpl. Jared Harrison and other employees.

Sources: The Salt Lake Tribune (2), Utah.gov / Photo credit: Staplegunther/Wikimedia

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