Jailed man dies from undiagnosed leukemia

9 months 6 days 4 hours ago Friday, April 12 2019 Apr 12, 2019 Friday, April 12, 2019 2:22:00 PM CDT April 12, 2019 in News
By: The Associated Press

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — Leukemia killed a Missouri jail inmate whose health deteriorated before he was found dead in his cell, according to a medical examiner's report.

Lamar Catchings, who was 20, wasn't diagnosed until after he died on March 1 in the St. Louis County jail, where he had been incarcerated for 11 months on assault and armed criminal action charges, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

A medical examiner report obtained through a public record request says he most likely had an aggressive form of leukemia in which too many immature blood-forming cells, called promyelocytes, accumulate in the blood and bone marrow. Blood tests can be used to diagnose the condition, which is considered the most curable form of adult leukemia, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

"I would have given anything just to hold him and help him through his pain," his mother, Tashonda Troupe, said in a statement. "They ignored him and left him to die an inhumane death, which to me is criminally negligent."

Catchings was the third inmate to die in the county jail this year. The County Council has scheduled an inquiry into jail procedures starting with a hearing on Tuesday.

"We want to know what process and procedures are in place for assisting an inmate who is having obvious health issues," Rochelle Walton Gray, chairwoman of the County Council's Justice, Health and Welfare Committee, said in a statement Thursday. "Were these protocols being followed? If not, what needs to change?"

The medical examiner, Dr. Mary Case, declined in an interview to say whether leukemia should have been diagnosed. But she added that a person suffering from acute promyelocytic leukemia would usually be "desperately ill" and seek medical attention.

In a jailhouse interview last month with a Post-Dispatch reporter, Desean Pitts, an inmate in an adjacent cell, said Catchings appeared to be extremely sick and weak for at least two weeks before he died. Pitts said Catchings had told him his eyes and ears hurt, that he could not hear out of one ear, and that he had pain on one side of his body.

Catchings had been able to walk into a St. Louis County courtroom on Jan. 25, but at his next court appearance on Feb. 22, he was in a wheelchair. Courtroom video obtained by the Post-Dispatch through a public record request showed that Catchings struggled to rise when the judge entered the courtroom, and he frequently held his head in his hands.

The medical examiner's report said a nurse working at the jail reported that Catchings had been acting "weird" in the days before his death. Asked to elaborate, she told an investigator that he had complained of headache, nausea and vomiting on Feb. 18 and Feb. 22, and of weakness, dizziness and a burning feeling in his chest on Feb. 26.

Catchings may have died several hours before he was discovered, the report said. The medical examiner found a jail guard did not follow protocol by having Catchings stand in his cell when checking on inmates at 10 p.m. the night before. Instead, the guard looked through his cell door window and saw Catchings lying on his back in bed in the same position in which he was later discovered dead.

Julia Childrey, the county's interim justice services director, did not respond to a request for comment from the Post-Dispatch or The Associated Press.

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