Husband questions wife’s suicide in jail — (KHOU)

SSRI Ed note: Woman on antidepressants, arrested for DUI, asks to go to hospital, taken to jail instead. Hangs herself using shoelaces.
Original article no longer available


09:50 PM CDT on Tuesday, April 4, 2006

By Jeff McShan / 11 News

There are serious questions about the death of a woman who worked at a prominent Houston law firm.  Investigators say she committed suicide after spending less than two hours in jail.

11 News talked with her grieving husband, who says two police officers are to blame.

One month ago inside the Lake Jackson police department jail, Janice McKenzie Smith died.

Lake Jackson police said Janice McKenzie Smith hung herself with her shoelaces.

Her husband says he’s had little sleep since.

“Frustration. With her not being around I mean, if they just would have followed one procedure she would be here today. It’s like I am missing a piece of me, you know,” said Alex Smith.

Smith is referring to the Lake Jackson police department.

On March 3rd they arrested his wife for driving under the influence.

Reportedly, she told the police department she was taking anti-depressants and needed to be taken to the hospital.

“I didn’t find out until 1 o’clock in the morning. The lieutenant from the sheriff’s department came by and notified me in person that she passed away,” Smith said.

She apparently committed suicide using her shoe laces.

“This is a textbook example on how you don’t treat someone when they are under arrest),” said attorney Pete Patterson.

Patterson is representing the family.

“She was not searched at the scene, she was not searched at the jail, she was not questioned at the jail, and then they put her alone and didn’t check on her for a significant period of time,” Patterson said.

The police are also were supposed to remove her shoe laces.

Lake Jackson police chief Paul Hromadka talked with 11 News by phone.

“We have conducted an internal investigation which revealed policy violations. The officers have been disciplined for those policy infractions,” said Hromadka.

There were two officers.

“On Sgt. Baker I don’t think they did much of anything because he was already retiring and when you’re going to retire you’re going to keep all your retirement benefits. One officer is getting 30 days’ suspension. My wife lost her life, so you’re saying that my wife’s life is worth a 30-day suspension,” said Smith.