Jail suicide triggers lawsuit. Incident led to disciplinary measures.
By: Bennett Loudon December 3, 2019
The mother of a woman who committed suicide while being held in the Monroe County Jail has filed a lawsuit against the county.
On Sept. 4, 2018, Sitarah Daniels hanged herself with a blanket tied to the bars of her cell. She died the next day at Strong Memorial Hospital. After an internal investigation some jail workers were disciplined.
The lawsuit filed Monday in state Supreme Court accuses the defendants of negligence and disregard for Daniels’ constitutional rights. The complaint does not include a specific amount of damages sought. In addition to Monroe County, the defendants in the suit include:
- Monroe County Sheriff’s Office;
- Sheriff Todd K. Baxter;
- Jail Superintendent Ronald Harling;
- Primecare Medical of New York Inc., which provides medical and mental health services to inmates at the jail;
- Kara Haydanek Capellupo, a registered nurse who worked at the jail; and
- Unnamed deputies and healthcare providers
The plaintiff, Juanita James, is Daniels’ mother, the administrator of Daniels’ estate. James is represented by attorney Michael A. Bottar.
On Aug. 8, 2018, Daniels was taken into custody at the jail and placed under suicide watch. She had a history of several mental health disorders, psychiatric hospitalizations and suicide attempts, including a prior attempted suicide with a bed sheet in the jail in October 2015. Suicide watch includes a deputy stationed directly outside the cell “with the ability to immediately intervene should an inmate need medical attention,” according to the 22-page complaint.
On Aug. 13, 2018, Daniels was taken off suicide watch. Between 2:26 p.m. and 2:40 p.m., on Sept. 4, 2018, a deputy did not properly complete a tour of cells and other areas, even though he recorded that he had in a log book. Because the tour was incomplete, “this produced an alarm in Central Control room that was acknowledged by someone,” according to the complaint. But people working in Central Control did not contact anyone to report the incomplete tour.
During the time the tour should have been conducted, Daniels was recorded on a surveillance camera tying a blanket to the bars of her cell. The camera also recorded her hanging herself at 2:33 p.m., according to the complaint. A deputy also failed to complete a tour between 2:40 p.m. and 2:50 p.m., but he logged it as complete. This triggered another alarm in Central Control, which was acknowledged by someone, but nobody was notified of the incomplete tour for a second time, according to the suit. It wasn’t until 2:57 p.m. that two deputies walked past a surveillance camera monitor and saw Daniels hanging in her cell. The blanket was cut down at 2:58 p.m., 25 minutes after Daniels hanged herself, according to the suit.
Daniels was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead about 7:20 p.m. on Sept. 5.
During an internal investigation two deputies involved in the incident refused to be interviewed.
In December 2018, Baxter released a statement saying he imposed “serious disciplinary measures” on some workers. An investigation by the New York State Commission of Correction is ongoing.
Monroe County officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.
BLoudon@BridgeTowerMedia.com / (585) 232-2035