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Death of Edwinta Deckard Changes Nacogdoches Jail

Jul 11th, 2012 | Category: Lead Article, Nacogdoches County

By Francesca Washington, NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TEXAS, see story at KTRE-TV

Tuesday morning, the Nacogdoches Commissioners Court approved a new position in the jail for a nurse practitioner.

The death on an inmate in the Nacogdoches County Jail led to the increase in staff.  Two Nacogdoches jailers were indicted in connection to the death of Edwinta Deckard.

Elizabeth Owens and Danny Russell were charged with criminal negligent homicide.

The nurse practitioner will work with the nurse currently on staff at the jail along with a doctor who makes visits to the jail once a week.

“Allowing that person to come in and familiarize themselves with the jail operation and then establish some written protocol for jailers to be able to follow during times of absence of medical staff,” said Sheriff Thomas Kerss, Nacogdoches County.

The nurse practitioner will work at the jail a few hours each day and be on call five days a week. The commissioners court and sheriff’s office are working together to find a nurse practitioner and finalize the agreement.

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Posted: Jun 26, 2012 9:51 AM CDT

Grand jury indicts Nacogdoches jailers in inmate’s death

By Jeff Awtrey and  Francesca Washington

Sheriff Thomas Kerss said Lt. Elizabeth Ann Owens, 40, of Nacogdoches, and Sgt. Danny Ray Russell, 35, of Douglass, turned themselves into the jail on Monday on charges of state-jail felony criminal negligent homicide. Both posted $4,000 bonds.

Kerss said the charges are in connection to the Dec. 5 death of Edwinta Ruth Deckard, 53, of Nacogdoches.

Deckard was booked into the jail on Dec. 2 on misdemeanor theft charges. She became ill on Dec. 4, according to a previous report, and taken to the hospital after 6 a.m., where she died.

Kerss said an autopsy ruled that Deckard died of natural causes and dehydration.

In a December interview, Kerss said Deckard had a lengthy history of health problems.

The grand jury indicted Owens and Russell on June 18. Kerss said they were put on suspension on June 21.

“It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances all around,” Kerss said. “I hate it for the Deckard family. I also hate it for these officers. Despite the indictment, I have a hard time recognizing the criminal element being involved and we’ll see where it takes us in the future.”

The indictment states they “did then and there by criminal negligence, cause the death of an individual, Edwinta Deckard, by failing to provide appropriate medical care.”

“I think everybody in the entire system, from the top to bottom, is surprised about this. I would anticipate a pretty quick end to this,” said Tim Jones, Elizabeth Owen’s Attorney.

Criminal defense attorney John Boundy says jailers are not trained physicians and have to use their best judgment when it comes to the welfare of inmates.

“In an institutional setting you have people who have legitimate medical problems and need attention and then you’ve got the people who complain about everything and jailers have to deal with that on a 24 hour a day basis,” said Boundy.

Kerss believes failure to recognize the severity of her symptoms doesn’t necessarily constitute as criminal behavior.

“I’ve looked this case over forwards and backwards and I fail to see where those criminal elements have been met,” said Kerss

Kerss believes the indictment is an opportunity to work with the Commissioners Court to increase the medical team available to the jail.

Kerss said the case was jointly investigated by his office and Texas Ranger Tom Davis.

Thanks KTREQ Without KTRE,  we wouldn’t be able to let you know about these important stories, because the newspaper in this region requires payment for their stories.

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10 years ago

I wonder what protocols the RN’s, medic deputies and EMT-b’s were following that stated an unconscious patient with chest pains is to be given a physical exam, no leads places, and given a clean bill of health.I’d also like to know what medical director signed off on them.Cheers!

sheri conner
7 years ago

san augustine county jail staff told EMS to put my husband back to bed with a blood pressure at stroke level. 200+/100+. The EMT stated no, by law and liscense he had to go to ER. husband was telling staff he needed meds and md visit for sveral days prior to that & was blown off.
law suit may be called for!