Cleveland Woman’s Death in Jail Possibly Due to Improper Medication by Police

By Paul Gaita 08/21/15

Jones was seen on video explaining her medical condition to officers hours before her death.

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Documents obtained from the police department in Cleveland Heights, Ohio show that officers gave Ralkina Jones more of her daily medication than was required in a single day, which appear to have contributed to her death while behind bars.

Jones, 37, was arrested July 24 on charges of domestic violence, felonious assault, and endangering children after an incident involving her ex-husband. In custody at the Cleveland Heights jail, Jones expressed concern that she would not receive the medication she required for, among other issues, epilepsy, migraines, and high blood pressure.

In a video released by police, Jones can be heard stating to an officer, “I’m not asking for any exception to any rules, but I will tell you this: I do not want to die in your cell.” After appearing lethargic on Saturday, July 25, Jones was evaluated at HealthSpan medical clinic before being returned to her cell later that evening. The following morning, Jones was found unresponsive, after which EMS crews pronounced her dead at the scene.

NBC News, which obtained both the official prison medication log and the main jail log as part of an investigation into Jones’ death, noted a discrepancy in regard to the number of times she received her medication during her three-day stay in jail. The official medication log shows that she received two doses in a single day, while the main jail log indicates that she had received three doses.

Dr. Jeannie Lee, an associate pharmacy professor from the University of Arizona, reviewed the documents and noted that the increased dose may have caused a fatal drug interaction.

“She had several medications that basically work on the serotonin receptors in the brain, and if you take multiple medications that stimulate serotonin in the brain, that can cause overstimulation and what we call serotonin syndrome,” Lee said. Severe cases of serotonin syndrome have caused unconsciousness and even death.

Elizabeth Rothenberg, director of law for the City of Cleveland Heights, responded to the information in a statement saying, “We note that the Medical Log Sheet reflects fewer medications dispensed to Ms. Jones than documented in the Jail Log. This matter is under investigation along with the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s investigation of the cause of Ms. Jones’s death.”

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.