Mother sues after daughter dies in jail

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 5:42 pm

A Yancey County woman who has rejected a settlement offer says she was not looking for revenge for her daughter’s death when she filed a wrongful death suit against McDowell County Sheriff Dudley Greene.

Attorneys for Wanda Higgins Cooper filed the suit against Greene in August 2012, after her daughter died while incarcerated in the McDowell County Jail.

WLOS-TV reported Tuesday that Cooper refused to take a $1,000 check from the insurance company representing the Sheriff’s Office.

“I don’t want revenge. It may save someone else’s life,” Cooper told The McDowell News Wednesday. “I know it won’t bring her back.”

Cooper’s daughter, Christina “Tina” Lee Ledford, 34, of Green Mountain, was arrested on Aug. 5, 2010 in Yancey County. She was transported to McDowell and booked on a warrant for failure to appear on a driving while license revoked charge.

Late that Saturday night on Aug. 7, 2010, jail staff noticed Ledford having “seizure-like symptoms.” She was taken to McDowell Hospital where she was evaluated, treated and released back into custody, according to Sheriff Greene.

The following Sunday, during a routine check, staff found Ledford lifeless in her cell.

“Our personnel started CPR and tried reviving her for several minutes until paramedics arrived,” Greene said. “We did everything we could for her.”

According to Cooper, Ledford’s cause of death was from complications with intravenous drugs. Cooper said Ledford was a drug user of oxycodone, methadone, and morphine.

“It is a terrible thing. I definitely sympathize with her (Cooper),” stated Greene, “We did everything within reason for her (Ledford) to receive the care we were able to provide. Our staff tries to ensure the well-being of inmates, and it was (ensured) in this case.”

Greene also stated that officers learned during Ledford’s incarceration that she had not been completely honest about her medical history.

“Any prisoner that is booked requires a medical screening through interview and observation, but we are not a medical facility. She did not disclose any drug use issues,” told Greene. “After she left the hospital, we did not receive any special discharge instructions, and unfortunately in this case she passed.”

Cooper’s lawsuit states that, “Upon information and belief, the Defendant (Sheriff) and his agents knew of her chemical dependency issues… and reacted to Ledford’s complaints and cries for help by placing her into isolation, and not providing her medical attention in a timely manner.”

The suit also claims that the Sheriff’s Office violated the provisions of North Carolina General Statute 153A-224 that states, ‘No person may be confined in a local confinement facility unless custodial personnel are present and available to provide continuous supervision in order that custody will be secure and that, in event of emergency, such as fire, illness, assaults by other prisoners, or otherwise, the prisoners can be protected. These personnel shall supervise prisoners closely enough to maintain safe custody and control and to be at all times informed of the prisoners' general health and emergency medical needs.”

“We did our routine checks as required,” said Greene, “Detox protocol was followed.”

Cooper said she received a $1,000 check as a settlement from the Sheriff’s Office’s insurance company, but Cooper has refused the money and is moving forward with her suit, hoping to gain upwards of $10,000 for funeral expenses.

“Her funeral was $6,000 and her tombstone, which she still does not have, is $3,500,” Cooper said. “Why would they offer anything if they weren’t at fault?”

Greene said that the $1,000 was a number that the insurance company agreed to on the advice of their counsel, and to his knowledge before Monday, both parties were in agreement with the settlement.

Cooper said even a big settlement now won’t keep her from telling her story. “They did something wrong, whether I get a dollar or a thousand, I don’t care,” she said. “I want to know.”

A trial date is set for McDowell County Superior Court on Dec. 2, 2013.