Jennings County prosecutor releases inmate's cause of death, investigation findings

Sandra Ray, from North Vernon, was found unconscious in her cell at the Jennings County Jail...
Sandra Ray, from North Vernon, was found unconscious in her cell at the Jennings County Jail around 7:30 a.m. on May 26, according to ISP.(Jennings County Jail)
Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 7:15 PM EDT

JENNINGS CO., Ind. (WAVE) - The Jennings County prosecutor released the findings following an investigation into the death of a 35-year-old inmate.

Sandra Ray, from North Vernon, Ind., was found unconscious in her cell around 7:30 a.m. on May 26, two days after she was arrested for suspicion of driving while intoxicated. She was in her cell alone at the time.

According to court documents, Ray had a blood alcohol content of .267 at the time of her arrest around 4:21 p.m. on May 24. Indiana’s legal limit is .08.

Ray took another breathalyzer test at the Jennings County Jail a little over an hour later, showing a result of 2.33 g/210 L.

A medical assessment taken less than two hours later indicated Ray was under the influence of alcohol. Documents said the assessment also indicated Ray abused alcohol daily by drinking a fifth and will go through withdrawal.

Ray was placed on alcohol withdrawal assessment and was supposed to be monitored by jail staff. A form noting the inmate’s vital symptoms and other various symptoms was supposed to be filled out as well.

From the time she was booked, Ray was checked on three times by jail staff, according to the form. Jailers recorded that Ray appeared agitated, was sweating and did not feel good.

Jail staff told Ray to use the emergency button she had access to if she felt any distress.

After the second check, documents said despite Ray not feeling well, a physician was not called to her cell.

The third assessment was attempted on May 26 around 1:30 a.m., but her symptoms and vital signs were not checked, because staff believed she was asleep.

It was noted that Ray was not eating much since being booked into the jail.

Around 7:37 a.m. that same day, a jailer found Ray unresponsive. She was offered medical treatment and EMS was called. Paramedics were unable to resuscitate her and she died.

According to court documents, if a person tests above a .25% BAC, they are automatically taken to a hospital to be cleared before being booked into Jennings County Jail. Ray’s initial chemical test result was 23%.

Documents claim there was not a nurse on staff when Ray was booked into jail, but an inmate’s medical intake assessment should be placed at the nurse’s station for review for when they come in the next day to do a follow-up.

The Jail Commander said they believe Ray’s medical intake assessment was placed at the nurse’s station, however, the copy of the assessment that the prosecuting attorney obtained had writing on it, but was not signed off by medical staff or a nurse.

Documents allege the nurse never saw Ray and was not told of the alcohol protocol. She claimed she became aware one day after Ray’s arrest by reviewing the book-in sheet that she had been placed on the alcohol protocol.

The nurse said after speaking to the jail staff about the alcohol protocol, no one showed concern about Ray going through withdrawal.

The Jail Commander said a doctor or nurse practitioner should have been called about the situation after the book-in process, since Ray indicated that she likely would withdraw from alcohol. They added a separate medical protocol should have been completed.

An autopsy performed on May 26 indicated that Ray’s cause of death was from complications of chronic alcoholism and withdrawal. Her manner of death was determined as natural.

According to the coroner’s report, Ray no longer had alcohol in her system at the time of her death, but several anti-depressant medications were detected at very low levels.

The office of the Jennings County Prosecuting Attorney determined no crimes were committed by Jennings County Jail staff in regard to Ray’s death. No criminal charges are warranted.

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