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No grounds for charges in Jennings County inmate's death, prosecutor says

Autopsy found Sandra Ray died from alcohol withdrawal
Posted at 8:31 AM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 08:32:20-04

JENNINGS COUNTY — No criminal charges will be filed in relation to an incarcerated woman's death just days after she was arrested, the Jennings County Prosecutor's Office says.

The statement from the office of Jennings County Prosecutor Brian Belding was shared by Indiana State Police Tuesday, about two and a half months after Sandra I. Ray, 35, of North Vernon was found unresponsive in her cell at the Jennings County Jail and later pronounced dead.

"The office of the Jennings County Prosecuting Attorney finds that no crimes were committed by employees and/or other inmates of the Jennings County Jail related to the death of Ray and that no criminal charges are warranted," the prosecutor's office said in its findings.

Ray had been jailed on suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated on the evening of May 24.

On May 26, a jailer found Ray unresponsive in her cell about 7:37 a.m., at which point they called for help and started CPR. Medics arrived about 7:45 a.m. and provided advanced life support, or ALS, according to the findings.

Medics stopped ALS about 7:52 a.m., at which point the Jennings County Coroner's Office was contacted.

State police detectives later arrived to begin their investigation. An autopsy was completed shortly thereafter.

The autopsy found Ray died from complications of chronic alcoholism and withdrawal and her death was ruled natural, according to the findings.

The findings state that when a medical intake assessment was completed on Ray, the result of her chemical test was .23% BAC — lower than the .25% required to refer someone to a hospital to be cleared before they can be booked into jail.

Jail staff monitored Ray for possible alcohol withdrawal, but a nurse didn't know Ray was on alcohol protocol until early May 25, the morning after she was booked. She later spoke with jail staff, and they didn't mention having concerns about her going through withdrawals, according to the findings.

The findings state the following:

"Ray was checked on three (3) times wherein the form was checked. Ray was checked on May 24,2022, at 6:56 P.M. it was noted that she was oriented, and she was agitated. Ray was checked again on May 25,2022, at I A.M. and it was noted on the form that she was agitated, tremors, and was sweating. The staff member had a conversation with Ray and Ray stated that she did not feel good. The staff member told Ray that if she has any distress to press the emergency button that Ray had access that is located within cell 210. A physician or nurse was not called after the second check. The third check was on May 26,2022, at 1:30 A.M. [t was noted on the form that Ray was asleep. The staff member did not go through the check list with Ray due to her being asleep.

"... The Jail Commander stated that 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. The Jail Commander also stated that a separate medical protocol should have been completed."

The prosecutor met with the ISP investigator, who said there was "no evidence of an intentionally, knowing, or reckless act by a person that would constitute a crime," according to the findings.

Surveillance video taken of Ray's cell did indicate any foul play, and interviews with jail employees who had contact with Ray raised no suspicions, the investigator found.

"The Indiana State Police investigation did not recover any evidence that Ray was a victim of homicide. There was no evidence that Ray was intentionally or knowingly killed by another person nor was there evidence of a reckless act," the findings state. "... The Jennings County Prosecutor watched the video surveillance of Ray during the time she was in the custody of the Jennings County Jail and agrees with the Indiana State Police investigator that no evidence was discovered or observed that would constitute a crime."

The prosecutor's full findings are available online.