The family of a 47-year-old woman who died in the Weber County jail while being detained on an immigration hold has filed a lawsuit alleging she was allowed to slowly bleed to death.
Amra Miletic, a Bosnian refugee, was pronounced dead March 20, 2011, after she was found unresponsive in her jail cell. She was booked into jail on Feb. 1, 2011, on suspicion of obstruction of justice and kept there by immigration officials.
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday names Weber County and Sheriff Terry Thompson as defendants. It alleges jail staff knew about Miletic’s medical problems during the six weeks she was jailed and were negligent in attending to her medical needs.
The day of her arrest Miletic was taken to the emergency room, where she complained of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea she had experienced for several days prior, the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit states on her booking day it was noted she had heart problems, post-traumatic stress disorder and thyroid problems. Also noted were the medications she brought with her.
In the following weeks, Miletic complained to medical and jail staff that she was feeling sick, was losing weight and had rectal bleeding including large blood clots, the lawsuit states.
On March 9, 2011, a jail doctor diagnosed Miletic with a disease, which he thought to be the cause of the diarrhea, and that the bleeding was hemorrhoidal, the lawsuit states.
Anita Omerika, Miletic’s sister-in-law, was concerned.
"She started complaining from the first day [I spoke to her], which was Feb. 5," said Omerika at a Thursday news conference. "For the three weeks before she died, every day she has been telling me, ‘Anita, I am dying.’ She told me, ‘I’m shortly and slowly dying. Nobody [is] helping me. Nobody even try to help me.’"
Omerika said she called Sheriff Thompson with concerns and was told Miletic was fine and not to worry. Omerika added that Miletic’s attorneys at the time also complained to the jail.
Two days before her death, the complaint states Miletic was once again seen by the jail doctor, who told her she needed a colonoscopy and "possible hemorrhoidal surgery," the lawsuit states. The doctor prescribed a thyroid and a topical medication and she was told to follow up in a week. Autopsy results determined her history of heart problems, most likely due to a thyroid condition, in combination with her recent blood loss from colitis caused her heart to stop.
Weber County declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday.
Until mid June 2011, the jail housed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees as they awaited processing. Miletic, a legal resident, was facing removal from the country because of a criminal history that included cocaine possession and obstruction of justice, local immigration officials reported after her death.
Omerika said Miletic started using drugs to deal with what she had experienced. She said Miletic, whom she had known for 22 years, was raped and had lost four brothers and her father during the Bosnian-Serbian war.
"She was funny, loving, generous, caring and most funny person I ever know in my life," Omerika said. "The only things she need is love and care and help for the last three years."
Miletic had been clean for the past 13 months, Omerika said. She was the mother of two grown children she had with her ex-husband.
"The U.S. Constitution gives every inmate a right to have reasonable medical care," said plaintiff’s attorney Robert Sykes Thursday. "This inmate had serious medical conditions and they knew about it … if you ignore these serious problems and someone dies on your watch, you are responsible for it."
Omerika said she was happy to be able "to raise her voice for Amra" but also wanted to speak up so no one else goes through the experience. The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages.
"My family has been hurt deeply so much. We come to the United States after the war to find the hope for all of us," Omerika said.
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