St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell will not issue criminal charges against jail medical personnel in the two recent deaths at the St. Louis County Justice Center, he announced on Friday, May 23 after concluding his investigation.
In a statement, Bell said that the “two terrible cases” involving John Shy, 29, and Lamar Catchings, 20, are “tragic and deeply troubling.”
“However, neither the facts nor evidence presented to my office rise to the level of bringing a criminal charge based on proof beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone is guilty of criminal neglect,” Bell stated.
The St. Louis County Health Department has removed one contract nurse and has reprimanded another nurse who were both named in the investigation, according to a spokesman for St. Louis County Executive Sam Page.
Bell had considered charging two nurses involved in Shy’s death with second-degree involuntary manslaughter but did not, Bell’s spokeswoman said.
Catchings died on March 1, after being incarcerated for almost a year, and the cause of death was listed as acute leukemia. His illness was not detected when he was admitted, according to Bell’s review.
Shy died on February 23, and the medical examiner determined Shy’s cause of death to be gastrointestinal hemorrhage. Bell stated that examiner did not find evidence for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Shy died as a result of medical neglect.
However, in both cases, the nurses who checked the men had failed to get them medical attention on various occasions, according to the police reports.
On the day Shy had died, he had been taken to St. Mary’s Hospital on two separate occasions and, each time, released by the hospital back to the custody of Justice Services, Bell’s reviews states. However, after his second return from the hospital, two nurses did not immediately respond when they saw Shy lying on the floor with blood on his pants. He died 15 minutes later, according to the police report.
In Catchings’ case, he had been vomiting and complaining of headaches for a week before he died, according to Bell’s review. He was also so dizzy that he had to use a wheelchair on February 22. At one point, Catchings hit his head on a mirror and had to sit back down. A nurse thought he was faking and told him that he needed to “stop that behavior,” according to Bell’s review.
Mark Pedroli, who is representing Catchings’ mother Tashonda Troupe, contends that Catchings had been throwing up the entire month of February, according to what inmates told police. If the patient is vomiting and has headaches, the nurse is ordered to immediately contact a doctor, Pedroli said.
“Those orders were disobeyed,” Pedroli said. “Had the orders been followed, Lamar would have been sent to the infirmary or hospital where a doctor or registered nurse would have intervened, and then a simple blood sample would have resulted in the immediate recognition and treatment for Lamar's highly curable leukemia, known as APL (acute promyelocytic leukemia). Lamar should be alive today. Period.”
Page asked the Clayton Police Department to determine whether there has been a pattern of deficiencies at Justices Services, according to a statement from the county executive. They did not find a pattern, said St. Louis County Police Lt. Col. Troy Doyle, who is temporarily running the jail.
Despite this and Bell’s decision, Doyle said he called Catchings’ mother, Tashonda Troupe, and told her, “I was going to do my due diligence in trying to figure out what are the issues here and how can we make it better.”
However, there are two directors at the jail. Doyle handles corrections, but he does not have authority over medical care. Dr. Emily Doucette is in charge of medical personnel and matters at the jail. Doucette and the health department declined to speak with The St. Louis American “because the decisions made are personnel matters and also they want to respect and protect the privacy of medical care of the inmates,” said Page’s spokesman.
When asked if Page plans on requesting someone to look into the potential patterns of deficiencies with the jail’s health care, Page’s spokesman said that “Dr. Page has identified companies that could conduct an independent assessment of Justice Services.”
Page read the medical reports on Shy and Catchings and said he was “disturbed” by them. He did not want to comment about them from the “lens of a doctor,” he said, nor did he have other medical professionals review the reports because of the investigation.
Bell said his office is compiling recommendations of best practices based on the facts and patterns his team learned during the investigations “to do our part” to prevent more deaths. While Bell’s team found no evidence to criminally charge anyone, “We do, however, believe that many concerns regarding these two tragic cases can be addressed by a civil court,” said Sam Alton, Bell’s chief of staff.
Pedroli said that he believes Bell’s decision was premature because “there are witnesses they haven’t talked to.”