Nevada Woman Lay Dead for Hours in County Jail Cell After Suffering Seizures
RENO, NEVADA – September 5, 2018
Nevada state authorities have released a 300-page report detailing how a 27-year-old woman held for overdue traffic tickets ended up dead in her jail cell 13 months ago. The report shows that Kelly Coltrain’s jailers at the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office violated multiple policies when they denied her medical care, even though she informed them that she was withdrawing from addictive drugs and prone to seizures, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported. Despite being in a video-monitored cell, it took more than six hours for anyone to notice that she wasn’t moving. When a Sheriff’s deputy finally realized something was wrong, he didn’t call for a medical team and didn’t try to resuscitate the woman. He left her until morning.
Kelly Coltrain, 27, died on July 22, 2017 after three days in a Nevada jail, despite pleading for medical assistance and warning officers she was dependent on heroin and suffered seizures. On July 19, 2017 Coltrain was pulled over for speeding while on the way back to her home in Texas. She had traveled to Nevada to celebrate her grandmother’s 75th birthday. The officer who stopped Coltrain took her to the Mineral County jail due to other unpaid tickets on her record.
At first Coltrain refused to answer questions about her next of kin or her medical history. However, when she was told the bail would be greater than the cash she had available, Coltrain confessed to Sergeant Jim Holland she was dependent on drugs and had a history of seizures during withdrawal, according to the state report.
On July 22, 2017, the third day of her detainment, Coltrain began vomiting, trembling and “making short, convulsive type movements.” Coltrain had asked for medical assistance hours before her death, but was instead given a mop to clean up her vomit.
“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 that your life is at risk… then you will go,” Deputy Ray Gulcynski told Coltrain, according to the state’s report.
Around 5 p.m. on July 22, Sergeant Holland brought Coltrain food, a clean jail uniform, and a mop, and ordered her to clean her cell. Coltrain stayed in bed and mopped as best as she could. Sergeant Holland pointed out places she had missed — she tried to reach those spots.
The report stated, “Sgt. Holland advised he thought Coltrain was just ‘lazy’ and that she just didn’t want to stand up to clean the floor.” It also stated that Holland just “wanted the floor to be cleaned” and “didn’t care how it got done, just that it got cleaned up.” This was the last time Coltrain was seen alive: for about half an hour she endured continuous convulsions and stopped moving entirely at 6:26 p.m.
At 12:30 a.m. Deputy Ray Gulcynski came to move her to a different cell and found her unresponsive. He nudged her with his boot, looked at her face, touched her arm, and left the cell.
He then returned and attempted to find a pulse but could not.
Terri Keyser-Cooper, who has a long history of successful civil rights lawsuits against Northern Nevada police agencies, called Coltrain’s case the worst she has ever seen in 33 years. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” she told the Gazette-Journal.
According to the state report, the twenty-minute section of video, which included the time when Deputy Gulcynski found Coltrain unresponsive and tried to find a pulse, was removed from the video sent to the investigators. The missing segment of video, which establishes when jail personnel first learned of Coltrain’s need for medical assistance, did not turn up until the civil lawsuit was filed. The missing video was included in the evidence the state turned over to the two lawyers filing the civil suit.
Coltrain lay in her cell until 5:48 a.m., when a Washoe County forensic technician arrived to deal with the body. Paramedics were never called, and no attempt was ever made to resuscitate Coltrain. He labeled Coltrain's death accidental, caused by "complications of drug use." The toxicology results showed she had heroin in her system.
On August 29, Coltrain’s parents and grandmother filed a wrongful death lawsuit, accusing the sheriff’s office of ignoring her life-threatening medical condition despite knowing that she was suffering heroin withdrawals and had a history of seizures.
The lawyers wrote, “Kelly Coltrain’s medical condition was treatable and her death preventable. 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.”
Mineral County Sheriff Randy Adams said he could not discuss details of an ongoing case, but that he had instituted an update of jail policy. “Obviously it’s terribly unfortunate and it’s tragic,” Adams told the Gazette-Journal. “That’s really all I can say.”