Kelly Coltrain was on the way back from a reunion celebrating her grandmother’s 75th birthday in Reno and Lake Tahoe when she was pulled over for speeding near Hawthorne, Nevada, last year.
But the Texas native also had a few outstanding tickets and was booked into the Mineral County jail. She’d asked to go to the hospital, telling prison staff she was dependent on opioids and had a history of seizures stemming from withdrawals, but her pleas fell on deaf ears, Alternet reports.
Instead, she languished in her cell for three days, barely eating or drinking, mostly spending her time curled up in the fetal position on her bed. A video camera in her cell monitored her continuously as she trembled and vomited, but her pleas for medical help were ignored. And as her condition grew worse, the only thing deputies did was hand her a mop and order her to clean up her own vomit.
She died less than an hour later.
And she lay dead in her cell for six hours before deputies noticed. Then they took another six hours to summon medical personnel.
She was only 27.
Now an independent investigation has recently been completed, and a 300-page report filed. The report revealed that her jailers violated many policies by refusing her medical care after she told them about her drug dependency and a history of seizures during withdrawals.
But that’s not all.
State investigators also discovered evidence that suggests the Sheriff’s Office may have violated state laws that prohibit the inhumane treatment of inmates and official oppression. So Mineral County officials handed the case to Stephen Rye, the district attorney for neighboring Lyons County. He declined to press charges.
“The review of the case, in our opinion, did not establish any willful or malicious acts by jail staff that would justify the filing of charges under the requirements of the statute,” Rye said.
Coltrain’s family has a differing opinion, and last week her mother, father, and grandmother filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging the Sheriff’s Office ignored her life-threatening condition even though they knew she was going through withdrawals and was plagued by seizures.
“(Jail staff) knew Kelly Coltrain had lain for days at the jail, in bed, buried beneath blankets, vomiting multiple times, refusing meals, trembling, shaking, and rarely moving,” lawyers Terri Keyser-Cooper and Kerry Doyle wrote in the lawsuit. “Defendants knew Kelly Coltrain was in medical distress.”
The lawyers believe she could have survived if something had been done.
“Kelly Coltrain’s medical condition was treatable and her death preventable,” the attorneys said. “If Ms. Coltrain had received timely and appropriate medical care, she would not have died. Kelly Coltrain suffered a protracted, extensive, painful, unnecessary death as a result of defendants’ failures.”
Keyser-Cooper has been successfully fighting for civil rights throughout a legal career that spans decades, and this case, she says, “is the worst I have ever seen in 33 years.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.
Referring questions to the county’s attorney, Mineral County Sheriff Randy Adams didn’t have much to say, but admitted:
“Obviously it’s terribly unfortunate and it’s tragic. That’s really all I can say.
County Attorney Brett Ryman called Coltrain’s death a tragedy and said the sheriff has hired a risk management agency to update the jail’s policies and to train deputies. But he declined to answer specific questions regarding the investigation, citing the lawsuit.
“It’s just really difficult for a small rural county like this to handle what is just a massive problem,” Ryman said. “There are so many people addicted to substances who end up going through withdrawal in the jail.”
Indeed, Mineral County’s population is small, with just 4,500 residents, but if Coltrain’s death is symptomatic of a larger problem, then isn’t it time for something to be done — instead of sweeping something this tragic under the rug — as they have done here?
And Coltrain was a “successful student, a friendly outgoing girl, and an exceptionally talented soccer player,” with a devoted family, Keyser-Cooper said.
But a promising sports career in high school was ruined by a torn knee. The injury left her “depressed, confused, and disheartened,” the complaint notes, adding that this led her on the path to drug addiction.
When she was being booked, Coltrain was initially reticent about answering questions about her medical history and next-of-kin. But when she realized she wouldn’t be able to make bail, she reportedly told Sgt. Jim Holland that she was dependent on opioids and had a history of seizures when undergoing withdrawals, the report states. Not only that, the report alleges that Holland didn’t follow a policy that requires inmates who have a history of seizures to be checked out by doctors before being held at the jail.
It’s also worth noting this jail has no on-site medical care; instead, a hospital across the street cares for inmate’s medical needs and fills their prescriptions.
But Coltrain was never afforded this treatment.
About four hours after being booked the young woman told the night deputy that she needed to go to the hospital right away so that she could receive medication. But the deputy allegedly didn’t follow the jail’s medical care policy and told Coltrain she couldn’t get help unless he decided her life was in danger.
“Unfortunately since you’re Dt’ing (a reference to the detoxification process), I’m not going to take you over to the hospital right now just to get your fix,” Deputy Ray Gulcynski reportedly told Coltrain, the report states. “That’s not the way detention works, unfortunately. You are incarcerated with us, so … you don’t get to go to the hospital when you want. When we feel your life is at risk … then you will go.”
Early in the morning of July 22, 2017, her third day of incarceration, Coltrain started vomiting and trembling. She was “making short, convulsive type movements,” the report states. Just after 5 p.m. that day, Holland brought in her dinner and water. He convinced her to take a few bites. He brought her a fresh uniform to replace the one she’d soiled. He also brought a mop and asked her to mop up the vomit.
She rested a few moments until Holland returned and asked her once again to mop, according to the investigative report.
In a video reviewed by the Reno Gazette-Journal, she can be seen trembling and still seated as she tries to mop the floor. She stopped to rest numerous times. Then Holland is seen returning and he tells her to mop the spots she missed. Once she does that, he leaves with the mop.
It was the last time anyone saw her alive. In the video she lies down, never to wake up.
She is remembered by her best friend Katie Andreano as someone who was kind and intelligent. Andreano said she is heartbroken by her friend’s death.
“It’s completely devastating to see someone I love so much I love so much be treated that way,” she said.
The video below is a discussion of what happened to cause Coltrain’s tragic death. Please be aware that if you have any sense of kindness this video may be upsetting.
Featured image by CBS This Morning via YouTube video