Lawsuit alleges death of Weber County jail inmate who had mental and physical illnesses was avoidable

(Courtesy Weber County jail) Ashley Evan Jessop

When he was arrested two years ago, Ashley Evan Jessop allegedly told an Ogden police officer that he had a history of seizures, was taking psychiatric medications and was suicidal.

Despite repeating that information to an officer filling out an intake form at the Weber County jail, Jessop, 35, allegedly did not receive any medical or mental health treatment and died on March 3, 2016, three days after he was found largely unresponsive in a cell.

On Monday, Jessop’s mother, Michelle Shafer, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court that says the cause of death was determined to be renal failure due to rhabdomyolysis, a syndrome caused by injury to skeletal muscle.

The suit — which seeks an unspecified amount of money in damages — alleges the jail’s procedures and policies place inmates at risk and that her son’s constitutional rights were violated.

A similar lawsuit over the death of another inmate in 2016 was filed last year in federal court. That suit alleges Weber County and Sheriff Terry Thompson “exhibited a shocking degree of deliberate indiffence and reckless disregard” for the needs of Marion Dena Herrera, who was going through withdrawal from drugs when she died of dehydration.

In Shafer’s lawsuit, Weber County, the sheriff’s office, Thompson, Ogden City, the Ogden Police Department, and sheriff’s and police department officers are named as defendants.

Lt. Joshua Marigoni, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, had no comment Tuesday saying, “This is the first we have heard of this lawsuit, and we are reviewing it.”

The suit says a police officer responding to a call about a disturbance at an Ogden apartment complex arrested Jessop on Feb. 27, 2016, and took him to the jail, where he was booked on public intoxication.

The sheriff’s officer who filled out the Weber County Correctional Facility Intake Screening form noted that he did not think Jessop needed to be checked by someone on the medical staff, the suit says.

A member of the medical staff later signed the intake form and — despite Jessop’s statements that he was suicidal, taking psychiatric medications and had a history of seizures — also did not take any action to ensure he got medical treatment, the suit alleges.

Seven hours after booking, Jessop began to kick the door of his cell and was transferred to another cell, the suit said. He was not put on suicide watch and allegedly began screaming about 20 minutes later.

Hours later, Jessop was transferred once again to another cell, where he subsequently lost consciousness and fell to the floor, the suit said.

He was found laying unresponsive on a cell floor on the morning of Feb. 29, 2016 — nearly 24 hours after jail personnel had contact with him, the suit says.

Jessop was first taken to a hospital, then discharged to hospice care and died on March 3, 2016, according to the suit.

“Mr. Jessop’s death was avoidable,” the suit says, adding that “it resulted in needless pain and suffering for Mr. Jessop and significant harm” to his mother.

In Herrera’s case, the 40-year-old woman was booked into the jail on suspicion of forgery and theft on May 18, 2016, and was moved the next day to the medical unit for a “heroin detox treatment,” according to the lawsuit filed in September by her husband.

Herrera told jail staff members that she had nausea and had been vomiting, but she was not offered medication to help her deal with withdrawal symptoms, the lawsuit alleges. Other inmates heard her crying out for help, the suit says, “and that cry for help was ignored.”

Herrera was found deceased in her medical cell on May 22, 2016. The suit is pending.