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Mother sues jail over daughter's suicide, saying it withheld her medicine

Mother sues jail over daughter's suicide, saying it withheld her medicine

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SALT LAKE CITY — The mother of a woman found dead in her Duchesne County Jail cell two years ago says the jail withheld her daughter's medicine for anxiety and depression for more than a week before her suicide.

Tanna Jo Fillmore, 25, "not only experienced severe psychological and emotional trauma, but she died a horrible and preventable death," claims a wrongful death lawsuit filed by her mother, Melany Zoumadakis, on Friday.

Jail employees refused to provide Fillmore her prescription medication over a nine-day period despite an intake health screening and prior knowledge of her mental illness from her previous stints in the jail, according to the lawsuit.

The suit names Sheriff David Boren, in addition to the jail's former medical director, Kennon Tubbs, and nurse Jana Clyde. Messages left with attorneys believed to be theirs were not immediately returned Monday. The sheriff's office declined comment, saying in a statement it had not yet been served a copy of the suit.

Fillmore's confinement and the potential 15-year prison sentence she was facing "triggered and compounded" her disorders, attorneys for her mother argue in court documents. But the jail failed to provide any mental health treatment or properly train or supervise medical employees, attorneys for Zoumadakis argue, calling the shortcomings intentional and "reckless."

The suit filed on behalf of Fillmore's estate seeks unspecified punitive damages and others to spur reforms at the county.

Fillmore, who was being held without bail on a probation violation related to felony and misdemeanor drug convictions, was found unresponsive in her cell on Nov. 24, 2016, and could not be revived. An autopsy determined that suicide was the cause of death, the suit states.

She had been jailed Nov. 15 in Salt Lake City and was brought to the Duchesne jail the following day. Zoumadakis, a nurse, alleges she told her daughter's probation officer shortly after the arrest that Fillmore's mental state would destabilize if the drug therapies were discontinued.

She had called her mother three times the day before her death, begging her to bring her medications to the jail, the suit says.

"On the last call, Fillmore yelled at Zoumadakis, threatening to commit suicide, and then hung up," it states. A day earlier, her mother said she noticed distress and anxiety in her daughter's voice during a similar trio of calls.

Clyde was charged with misdemeanor negligent homicide in connection with another 2016 inmate death — that of 21-year-old Madison Jensen, who died of dehydration. A judge tossed the case, finding there was not enough evidence to advance to a trial. Prosecutors have since appealed that decision.

In Utah, Fillmore's death is part of a larger trend. Suicide is the leading cause of death among those in county jails in recent years, according to a recent report from the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. Of 71 inmates who died while in custody from 2013-2017, the review found, more than half claimed their own lives.

Help for those having suicidal thoughts is available from a 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or by texting "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

Suicide Prevention Resources
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Crisis Hotlines

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Statewide/Salt Lake County Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-691-5433
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386

Online Resources

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