UPDATE: Coroner’s report released on inmate who died in LP County Jail April 19

Rachel Barnes

Rachel Barnes

UPDATE JUNE 5, 2015: The LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office issued the following press release on June 5, 2015, regarding the April 19 death of an inmate found dead in her cell in the LaPorte County Jail: 

The LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office has received the report from the LaPorte County coroner following the death of an inmate in the LaPorte County Jail on April 19, 2015. At approximately 1:32 a.m. on April 19, 2015, Rachel Barnes, a 33-year-old resident of Valparaiso, IN, was found unresponsive in a holding cell at the jail. Barnes was pronounced dead by a deputy corner at 2:30 a.m. Sheriff John Boyd has received the report from LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan which has attributed three causes: alcohol withdrawal seizure, pulmonary edema, and an enlarged liver, with the manner of death being determined to be natural. The coroner made the determination following a report that was received from Dr. Allen Griggs of Lafayette, IN, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy.

The toxicology report at the time of the autopsy showed a .00% blood alcohol level, however there was a presence of methadone in a non-toxic level. When a blood draw was conducted at LaPorte Hospital at 9:50 p.m. on April 17, the BAC result was .447%.

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Here’s a press release issued by the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office Sunday afternoon, April 19, 2015:

“The LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office is releasing the name of the female inmate who died while in custody at the LaPorte County Jail early Sunday morning. Rachel Barnes, 33, listed an address in Valparaiso, IN. She was found unresponsive by deputies in the jail at approximately 1:30 a.m. Sheriff Boyd spoke with Barnes’ father late Sunday morning.

“Rachel Barnes was arrested Friday, April 17, after she drove her vehicle into a pond on CR 250 N near the Porter/LaPorte County line. A nearby resident found Barnes sitting on the ground near the pond where her vehicle was completely submerged. Sheriff’s deputies suspected that Barnes was impaired by alcohol and possibly drugs so she was taken to IU Health LaPorte Hospital, where a blood draw was done. It was reported to the arresting deputy that Barnes’ blood alcohol level was .447%, which is more than five times the .08% limit. Barnes was being held in lieu of bond on a charge of Class A misdemeanor Operating While Intoxicated.

“Rachel Barnes was lodged at the LaPorte County Jail shortly after 10 p.m. on the 17th and was booked into the jail shortly after 6 a.m. on the 18th. As per protocol, Barnes was placed in a holding cell in the processing area of the jail. Typically an arrestee is held in this area pending a cell block assignment.
Investigators will be awaiting the results of the autopsy to help aid them in learning what may have been the cause of death in this case.”

The sheriff’s office had stated earlier Sunday that CPR was performed and an Automatic External Defibrillator was used on Barnes, but the attempts were not successful. She was pronounced dead by the LaPorte County Coroner’s Office.

“The inmate was discovered after a deputy who was monitoring cameras noticed that the inmate had not moved.”

5 Responses to “UPDATE: Coroner’s report released on inmate who died in LP County Jail April 19”

  1. Ken

    Apr 20. 2015

    Given the deadly blood alcohol content, instead of jail, she should have remained at the hospital; especially with the suspicion of drugs. I’m surprised she was not officially admitted into the hospital. Hopefully this will lead to some changes in procedure.

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  2. gobnaitx

    Apr 20. 2015

    I’m with Ken. I’m surprised as well that the hospital didn’t keep someone at 0.447%. That’s incredibly high.

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  3. Kevin Ledbetter

    Apr 20. 2015

    With a blood alcohol reading of 0.447% she should have received medical care not incarceration. Details of the event need to be reviewed and changes need to take place where needed.

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  4. Carrie

    Jun 08. 2015

    Alcohol is one of two substances that a person can literally die due to withdraw. This is why it is never advised that someone quit alcohol “cold turkey” as they can die from seizures as their Central Nervous System tries to return to its normal, pre-alcoholic state. Her death could have been prevented with appropriate medical intervention. That her BAC was .oo% upon death is a moot point. She would have been showing symptoms of alcohol withdraw (itching, agitation, hallucinations, fever) leading up to her seizure.
    Her death is a lapse in LaPorte’s ER and Jail’s training of staff as well as their not having proper Policy and Procedures in place. Our ER has often released patients who have drugs in their system and high BAC levels. Sadly, it is most often the vulnerable (I.E. addicts, teenagers) in our community who suffer from this as they are the easiest to ignore and judge.

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  5. amy stepanovich

    Jun 11. 2015

    It is just an absolute shame what happened to my best friend for over 20 years. Why again the jails only concern is to ‘book em’ rather than allow professionals to give her treatment. She was ONLY taken to the hospital for the blood test and taken back to the jail to await results! She was in a car accident and that alone should have made them admit her. There is a secured ward in laporte hospital for circumstances like this then with her BAC coming back that high she should have remained in the hospital with actual trained professionals rather than thrown into a holding cell where they arent a medical staff and equipped to handle cases like this. Ive seen first hand the way inmates are treated in the jail especially the ones who are detoxing or have medical issues. They are responsible for the ones they bring in. Our tax dollars pay for these jailers who pretend they’re doctors. Shame on the jail and hospital. Now her children have to grow up without her and the family is left with a big hole and unanswered questions as to why treatment wasnt offered to her. With all my heart i love you rachel.

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