Central Oregon Daily▶️ Deschutes County faces wrongful death lawsuit over woman’s death in jail

▶️ Deschutes County faces wrongful death lawsuit over woman’s death in jail

▶️ Deschutes County faces wrongful death lawsuit over woman’s death in jail

Kendra Sawyer, 22, died by suicide last year in Deschutes County Jail. Her father filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Friday, claiming officials failed to act on a tragic incident that could have been prevented.

“She was absolutely beautiful. Of course, I’m gonna say that as a father, but she truly was,” Kendra’s father, Kent Sawyer said.

Sawyer says she was battling an opiate addiction and mental health crisis at the time. While in jail, Sawyer claims Kendra suffered severe withdrawals. 

“In the end, she took her own life because I guess in her mind, death was more comfortable than life in that moment,” Sawyer said.

Kendra served two nights in jail for a probation violation before her death. Sawyer claims officials knew about Kendra’s struggles but did not provide proper medical treatment or adequate supervision. 

“I think they failed to acknowledge her cries for help from the withdrawals and to give her and other inmates some kind of medication to calm the physical body,” Sawyer said

In an emailed statement, Attorney for Deschutes County David Doyle said, “The county does not agree with allegations in the complaint and intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit.”

The lawsuit names Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson, Corrections Division Commander Michael Shults, Parole and Probation Officer Sarah Mosely, Sgt. Ashton Kent, and three deputies; Neil Marchington, Gunnar Johnson, and Jackson Rich as defendants.

The lawsuit reads: “These Defendants are persons who knew that KENDRA was (1) in the need of medical care; (2) suicidal; (3) in the midst of a mental health crisis; and/or (3) was housed in unconstitutional conditions of confinement. In spite of this knowledge, these Defendants took no steps to prevent serious injury and/or death to KENDRA. Each Defendant Doe was negligent; deliberately indifferent; acted in furtherance of an official and/or de facto policy or procedure of deliberate indifference; and/or were responsible for the promulgation of the policies and procedures and permitted the customs/practices pursuant to which the acts alleged herein were committed.”

While nothing can bring Kendra back, Kent hopes the lawsuit will inspire reforms that he thinks need to be made in the corrections system, such as offering medication that would alleviate withdrawal symptoms. 

Oregon House Bill 4120 was introduced into the 2024 Regular Session. If passed, it would aim to help inmates with opioid addictions.

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