Jail death is 10th since 2010

EVERETT — Melissa Lee Bradford was arrested after a squabble with her sister just before 3 p.m. Wednesday.

The Tulalip woman, 42, was booked into the Snohomish County Jail about 30 minutes later.

Within 24 hours, she was found unresponsive in the jail’s medical unit. Efforts to revive her failed.

Bradford became the tenth inmate to die at the jail since 2010.

As is standard procedure with inmate deaths, the case is being investigated by detectives with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner also has been asked to determine the cause and manner of death.

The spate of inmate deaths prompted the county last year to ask for a federal review of jail operations.

Since then, county officials have been working to improve medical care, increase staffing and reduce the jail’s average inmate population. A full-time doctor was hired, and efforts have been made to beef up nursing coverage.

Two inmate deaths led to major claims against the county.

A $1.3 million settlement was reached in April in a damage claim filed on behalf of Lyndsey Lason, 27, who slowly died of a lung infection inside the jail in 2011. Her chest was filled with fluid that eventually collapsed her lungs.

In February, the mother of Michael Saffioti, who died in the jail in July 2012, filed a lawsuit alleging that her son’s death was the result of ingrained problems at the county-run lockup, including deliberate indifference among some of its staff.

The Saffioti lawsuit alleges several employees, including a corrections officer and four jail nurses, ignored the Mukilteo man’s medical needs when he began to suffer an apparent allergic reaction after eating breakfast.

A trial date is pending.

“We really want, as does our client, a safer correctional facility,” said Seattle attorney James Rogers, whose firm is handling the Saffioti case. “That is important to everybody.”

Several inmates who died in recent years were known to have a history of drug and alcohol abuse or had withdrawal symptoms. In January, Lindsay M. Kronberger, 24, was found unresponsive in the medical unit. The medical examiner determined she died from probable heart problems, dehydration and opiate withdrawal.

Bradford was medically screened at booking Wednesday. Afterward, she was placed her in the unit on a drug and alcohol withdrawal watch, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.

“She was routinely checked every half hour by medical unit personnel,” Ireton said.

The initial screening did not show a need for medical attention outside of the jail, Ireton said.

“She was mobile,” Ireton said. “They had no reason at that point to send her” to the hospital.

Bradford was arrested Wednesday after an alleged domestic-violence assault involving her sister, 45.

A Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy wrote in the arrest report that Bradford appeared to be under the influence of drugs when he tried to talk with her. She was found hiding in a shed, “barely coherent” and “had difficulty articulating to deputies her version of the events,” court records said.

State law requires police responding to a domestic-violence call to make an arrest if there’s probable cause. The sheriff’s office has a no-bail policy in domestic violence cases until a judge reviews the allegations, Ireton said.

It wasn’t the first time Bradford had been booked into the jail.

She had six felony convictions for drugs and property crimes involving incidents that occurred more than a decade ago. She also had multiple misdemeanors.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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