Young mother dies during 30-day sentence in Michigan jail
A Local 4 Defenders investigation that lasted months found that a young mother who was sent to jail for 30 days died behind bars.
Jennifer Meyers, 37, didn't commit a violent crime. She was behind on child support and a judge sent her to jail. She died behind bars 12 days later.
The Defenders obtained exclusive video statements from two women who were inside the jail and information from the people who found Meyers' body.
"We've got to check her pulse, and she went like this, she is ice cold," a witness said.
Video shows Meyers' body being brought out on a stretcher in a body bag.
"She wasn't responding to me, and the minute I touched her she felt like she was in a meat freezer," a witness said. Meyers died from a virus slowly moving through her body over 12 days. Neither the Sheriff's Department guards nor the privately contracted medical staff took her to a hospital.
"Obviously, when somebody comes in to the jail, the punishment is being there," said Robert Ihrie, the Meyers family's attorney. "The punishment isn't to die."
Ihrie claims in a federal lawsuit that jail guards and privately contracted medical staff failed to see something that was obvious to other inmates.
"It looked like she had just gotten out of the shower and she was sweating so bad," a witness said.
The inmates said they put wet towels on Meyers' body, trying to cool her down. They said the illness was not sudden and that she was becoming increasingly ill each day of her incarceration.
"Nobody ever came in to check on her and see if she was OK," a witness said. "She wasn't eating. She wasn't drinking."
In her final three days, Meyers was too sick to get off her cot at meal time.
"She was literally laying in bed, cuddled up like this, not even able to move," a witness said.
In jail, requests for medical attention are called kites. Inmates said they were ignored.
"She was kiting all the time and the nurses wouldn't do anything about it," a witness said.
"She gave them the kite," another witness said. "She said she could barely get out of bed. She was trying to hand them a piece of paper. She said, 'You're going to have to give it to midnight staff or morning staff. I can't do (anything) about it.'"
"I saw her hand it to the nurse, and then she said, 'You have to give this to the morning person or the night person.' She wouldn't take it," a witness said.
If Meyers was evaluated, she was not determined sick enough to go to the hospital.
Witnesses said Meyers begged for help for days before she died. The family is trying to get answers about why she was never taken to the hospital.
Local 4 medical expert Dr. Frank McGeorge said the signs of illness and the foul smell should have warranted an in-depth examination by jail medical staff and a trip to the hospital.
"To leave them in jail with an infection that ultimately leads to their death, it's just about the same as putting them to death," McGeorge said.