Daughter sues Kane County, sheriffs over mom's 2013 jail suicide

 
 
Updated 8/24/2015 7:41 PM
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The daughter of a South Elgin woman who hanged herself two years ago at the Kane County jail has sued, arguing the sheriff, correctional officers and medical personnel routinely disregard the medical and mental health needs of inmates.

Terry Ann Hart, 52, killed herself Aug. 23, 2013, by tying three pairs of her jail-issued socks together and hanging herself. She was awaiting sentencing after being found guilty in a domestic incident after authorities were called to her home in October 2012 for a suicide threat.

Patrick Provenzale, an attorney representing Hart's daughter, said Hart was denied her prescription medications for anxiety and a degenerative joint disease in favor of a different set of medications preferred by the jail.

Hart complained the next several weeks -- until she posted bond -- that she suffered from insomnia and panic attacks because of withdrawal from her prescription medications, according to the lawsuit.

Hart surrendered to jail authorities in late July 2013 for her trial and sentencing and again was denied her two prescribed medications, the suit states. However, Hart was able to smuggle a stash of her prescription medication into the jail and she took it on her own, according to the lawsuit. When she ran out, her behavior shifted, her mental state deteriorated, and instead of getting the help she was begging jail personnel for, she was accused of hoarding medication and confined to her cell for several days as punishment, the lawsuit states.

"After she committed suicide, there's a whole series of things that were deleted from the (jail) pod computer," Provenzale said. "We didn't use the word 'cover-up.' I think that's a reasonable inference of what we've pled (in the lawsuit)."

The lawsuit names Sheriff Don Kramer, former sheriff Pat Perez, Kane County and 16 correctional officers as defendants.

Jail medical services provider Wexford Health Source, two of its doctors and three of its health care workers also are listed as defendants. A message left at Wexford's corporate office in Pittsburgh was not returned.

Lt. Pat Gengler, spokesman for the sheriff's office, said the department had not yet been served with the lawsuit and it was their policy not to comment on ongoing litigation.

The lawsuit also argues Hart's Eighth and 14th Amendment rights of protection from cruel and unusual punishment and equal protection under law were violated, and that jail and medical personnel disregarding detainees' medical and mental health needs is "widespread."

"We certainly expect to uncover a great deal more evidence of this," Provenzale said.

Hart's death in August 2013 marked the second suicide in a 15-month span at the jail.

In June 2012, 20-year-old Keith Renfroe Jr. of Minnesota strangled himself with a shirt even though he was on suicide watch.

An internal sheriff's department investigation concluded there was no negligence on the part of the jail staff.

A judge in June 2014 dismissed a lawsuit filed by Renfroe's mother, saying it was filed days after the statute of limitations expired and did not contain any specific factual allegations.

Hart's daughter's lawsuit is due in court Nov. 12.

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