"The victim took medication for his heart, lungs and depression. While vacationing in Lee County, he was arrested March 27 for disorderly intoxication and again two days later for trespassing."
Second paragraph reads: "Widowed last spring after 40 years of marriage, life is empty without husband Nick Christie.
Ohio widow wonders when justice will call her
Husband killed while in custody
By Sam Cook • firstname.lastname@example.org • October 18, 2009
No news isn’t good news for Joyce Christie.
Widowed last spring after 40 years of marriage, life is empty without husband Nick Christie.
“You should be in my shoes,” she says by telephone from Girard, Ohio. “Those jail guards not only killed my husband, they took my life. This should never have happened.”
The circumstances surrounding Nick Christie’s death were horrendous.
Her wait for justice is almost as agonizing.
“I think Nick’s medication caused a manic reaction,” his wife says.
The victim took medication for his heart, lungs and depression. While vacationing in Lee County, he was arrested March 27 for disorderly intoxication and again two days later for trespassing.
While held in the Lee County Jail mental health section March 29, he was restrained in a chair and repeatedly pepper-sprayed by corrections officers, according to prisoner, Ken Cutler, incarcerated five cells from the victim. Jail officials took Christie, 62, to Gulf Coast Medical Hospital. He died March 31.
“I would like to confront the guards who did this to Nick,” says his widow. “Why are they still working? Why weren’t they charged with his death?”
She hired Ohio and Florida attorneys to work the case, but has heard nothing in 61 2 months about the investigations.
“I’m sitting here crying,” she says. “I have so many unanswered questions. What’s wrong with Florida? Where is the justice for Nick?”
Sgt. Larry King, Lee sheriff’s spokesman, says his office completed its death investigation and turned it over to the state attorney’s office.
“(Nick Christie) died at the hospital,” King says. “He wasn’t, technically, in our custody.”
Spokeswoman Samantha Syoen says the state is reviewing the case. She couldn’t estimate when it would be finished.
The U.S. Department of Justice and FBI also are investigating if there was a civil rights’ violation.
“We’re reviewing it to see if a federal crime was committed,’’ says Special Agent David Couvertier, FBI spokesman in Tampa. “Once we identify that, we’ll decide.”
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The death certificate lists stress from restraint and pepper spray as two contributing factors, along with cardiac arrest and low blood pressure caused by heart pump failure.
Dr. Robert Pfalzgraf, deputy chief medical examiner who signed the certificate, says in 99 percent of the cases the person sprayed doesn’t die from the irritant.
“(Pepper spray) didn’t kill him in the sense that it was toxic or poison,’’ he says. “But (it did) in the sense it was an irritant. It was a stressor to his heart.”
Pfalzgraf says Christie’s heart couldn’t stand it.
“I can’t ignore the fact that he died while they were doing stressful things to him,” he says.
Joyce Christie’s heart can’t stand it either.
“I’m having an awful, terrible time,” she says.
She sits in her Girard house, 1,244 miles from Fort Myers and wonders when justice will arrive.
“What is there to review?” she asks. “It’s black and white. Nick goes to jail. They restrain and pepper-spray him. Two days later, he’s dead.”
It sounds simple, yet she knows better.
“I hate it when people tell me the system failed Nick,” she says. “The system didn’t fail Nick. The system killed him.”
The widow is bitter.
Can you blame her?