El Paso County jail sees another inmate death

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El Paso County jail has seen a record number of deaths this year.

Another inmate at the El Paso County jail died in custody over the weekend, bringing the total deaths this year to nine.

As of last April, 11 had died in the jail since January 2020 — two in 2020, five in 2021 and four this year at that time.

We wrote about this issue earlier this year, quoting Sheriff Bill Elder’s take on why this is happening. At that time, he said a lot of sick people wind up in jail.

“The people being arrested aren’t those who get to the dentist every year and see a doctor regularly,” Elder told us at the time. “These are the people who are stealing for a living. A lot of them are homeless, or right on that edge. It’s probably not the jail [that causes a death]. That just happens to be where they are at the time of their death.”

On Dec. 11, a female inmate, Savannah Poppell, 24, was found by a deputy unresponsive in her cell at 9:50 a.m. where she was the sole occupant. Lifesaving measures were initiated by sheriff’s personnel and medical staff until responders from the American Medical Response (AMR) and the Colorado Springs Fire Department took over medical care. But she later died.

Poppell had been booked into jail on Dec. 7 on charges of possession of a controlled substance, second-degree introduction of contraband, criminal possession of a financial device, theft over $50 but less than $300, failure to provide evidence of insurance, speeding, shoplifting, and trespassing on private property.

Her bond was $5,300, though some charges carried no bond due to her failure to appear in court.

On Dec. 12, the El Paso County Coroner’s Office conducted an autopsy, with its preliminary findings that her death was likely due to “an upper gastrointestinal bleed from an esophageal tear due to vomiting in the setting of substance withdrawal.”

The Coroner’s Office is awaiting toxicology results before establishing the official cause and manner of death, the Sheriff’s Office said in a release.

Going back to Elder’s point about inmate health: He and County Coroner Leon Kelly say it makes sense to have a more robust system locally into which inmates could be released for continued health care. This concept is underscored by a study cited by the Prison Policy Initiative, which showed that “During just the first two weeks after release from prison, people leaving custody face a risk of death more than 12 times higher than that of the general U.S.  population.”

Those who have died in the county jail this year:

  • Feb. 15: Sean Williams, 32, natural causes, autopsy pending. In jail for 22 days on an $805 bond on charges of trespassing and shoplifting.
  • March 17: Laura Gibbs, 41, hypertensive cardiovascular disease in the setting of recent methamphetamine and heroin intoxications. In jail for 1.5 days on a $2,000 bond for a charge of criminal attempt.
  • March 25: Leroy Eckhoff, 74, hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. In jail for 35 days on no bond on a charge of felony menacing and on a $2,000 bond on a charge of child abuse.
  • April 26: Cristo Canett, 48, died from peritonitis due to a perforated duodenal ulcer. In jail 1.5 days on no bond on charges of second-degree kidnapping, parole violation and criminal mischief.
  • June 9: Dezaree Archuleta, 18, was found at 4:26 p.m. unresponsive in her cell. She died by suicide by strangulation and had been in jail 24 days on charges of burglary, robbery, assault and other charges. She had no bond.
  • July 3: Cassandra Ramirez 48, was found unresponsive at 9:16 p.m. in her cell. She had been in jail three days on a $1,900 bond on charges of criminal impersonation, false reporting and other charges and died from methamphetamine intoxication.
  • July 4: Daniel Murray, 37, was found unresponsive at about 7:35 a.m. in his cell. He was in jail for five days on charges of violating a restraining order and assault. He died of chronic alcohol abuse. He had no bond on some charges and $3,000 bond on others.
  • Oct. 14: Felicia Hudson, 58, was found unresponsive in her cell at 10:22 p.m. “It appears there was some significant heart disease present during autopsy which may have contributed to her death,” a news release said at the time. She had been in jail two days on a $1,000 bond on charges of criminal mischief, harassment and trespass.
  • Dec. 11: Savannah Poppell (see above).

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Deb Mynatt tells the Indy in an email, “Each of these cases are taken seriously and they are troubling. Each has had an impact and they are not taken lightly.”

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