An anti-depressant drug, sertraline [Zoloft], found in Margaret Dale Kersey's blood may have also played a role in her death, according to Chief Medical Examiner Deborah Radisch. Sertraline is commonly sold under the brand name Zoloft.
SSRI Stories Note: The Physicians Desk Reference states that antidepressants can cause a craving for alcohol and can cause alcohol abuse. Also, the liver cannot metabolize the antidepressant and the alcohol simultaneously, thus leading to higher levels of both alcohol and the antidepressant in the human body.
BY JESSE JAMES DECONTO – Staff Writer
A woman who died in the Orange County jail last spring probably died of alcohol poisoning but may have suffocated to death on her own vomit, according to an autopsy released Tuesday.
An anti-depressant drug, sertraline, found in Margaret Dale Kersey's blood may have also played a role in her death, according to Chief Medical Examiner Deborah Radisch. Sertraline is commonly sold under the brand name Zoloft.
A toxicology report shows Kersey's blood alcohol concentration was 0.36 percent, 4-1/2times the legal limit for drivers.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office has said deputies took Kersey to the jail at 12:49 a.m. May 8, after her sister had called 911 complaining that Kersey was drunk and violent.
She slept or passed out in the patrol car, and deputies placed her in a holding cell next to the jail's control room. A detention officer noticed she was unresponsive at 1:13 a.m. Emergency medical personnel responded, found her in cardiac arrest, performed CPR and pronounced her dead at the scene.
Kersey, 58, had a history of alcoholism and had returned from three months in rehab about six weeks before she died, the autopsy report said.
The Sheriff's Office has declined to answer questions about Kersey's condition at the time she was moved from the patrol car to the holding cell.
The jail intake policy, obtained by The News & Observer last spring, requires jailers to file reports describing an inmate's health condition, any assistance provided to an intoxicated person not needing medical care and any decision made to refuse or admit a detainee because of physical or mental health concerns. It also requires jailers to keep a log showing that they checked on suspects in the jail holding cell at least every 15 minutes.
In an e-mail response to The N&O's request for these documents, County Attorney John Roberts said jailers had not completed the reports because Kersey died so soon upon arrival at the jail.
Roberts declined to comment on the case Tuesday afternoon, saying he hadn't yet seen the autopsy or discussed it with Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass. Capt. Archie Daniel, who has led an internal investigation into Kersey's death, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
Roberts said an officer monitored Kersey from the jail's control room, which has a window into the holding cell but no one went into the holding cell to check her vital signs.
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