In­mate awaited men­tal care bed

Pub­lic de­fend­ers tried to find treat­ment for Army vet­eran

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - BY SI­LAS ALLEN Staff Writer [email protected]­la­

For nearly three months be­fore she died, Krys­ten Mis­chelle Gon­za­lez sat in an Ok­la­homa County jail cell while pub­lic de­fend­ers searched for an in­pa­tient men­tal health treat­ment fa­cil­ity that would agree to ac­cept her, the county’s chief pub­lic de­fender says.

Gon­za­lez, 29, was found un­re­spon­sive in her cell about 4:30 p.m. Tues­day. Jail staff per­formed life­sav­ing mea­sures be­fore tak­ing her to OU Med­i­cal Cen­ter, where she was pro­nounced dead shortly after 5 p.m. The state med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s of­fice has not de­ter­mined a cause of death, but jail of­fi­cials say Gon­za­lez hanged her­self.

Gon­za­lez had been jailed since Oct. 11 on a war­rant for fail­ure to ap­pear. The case

stems from a June 2017 in­ci­dent in which an of­fi­cer re­spond­ing to a shoplifting call found a bag­gie con­tain­ing 0.6 grams of meth in Gon­za­lez’s purse.

A U.S. Army vet­eran, Gon­za­lez stated in court pa­pers that she had been treated in the past for post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der, de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety. In Novem­ber 2017, her Ok­la­homa County case was trans­ferred to men­tal health court. As a part of that trans­fer, Gon­za­lez agreed to make reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances in men­tal health court. If she vi­o­lated the terms of the agree­ment, Gon­za­lez would be sub­ject to an au­to­matic 10-year prison sen­tence.

A judge or­dered Gon­za­lez ar­rested after she failed to ap­pear in court. After her ar­rest, the Ok­la­homa County pub­lic de­fender’s of­fice be­gan look­ing for an in­pa­tient men­tal health fa­cil­ity that could ac­cept Gon­za­lez, said Bob Ravitz, the county’s chief pub­lic de­fender. That would al­low Gon­za­lez to re­ceive treat­ment rather than go­ing to prison.

But those fa­cil­i­ties are scarce, Ravitz said, and staffers in the pub­lic de­fender’s of­fice strug­gled to find a bed for Gon­za­lez. Mean­while, Gon­za­lez waited in a county jail cell.

Ravitz said he doesn’t think jail is an ap­pro­pri­ate place for in­mates like Gon­za­lez. At min­i­mum, he said, Gon­za­lez should have been housed in the jail’s men­tal health ward rather than alone in a cell in gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

“But, I don’t run the jail,” Ravitz said.

Gon­za­lez also had a pend­ing mis­de­meanor charge in Tulsa County un­der the sur­name “Pasqualetti.” She was ac­cused there of ob­struct­ing an of­fi­cer and pos­ses­sion of drug para­pher­na­lia.

Mark Op­grande, a spokesman for the sher­iff’s of­fice, said Gon­za­lez hadn’t ex­hib­ited any signs of sui­cide risk. In­ves­ti­ga­tors will look at Gon­za­lez’s case to de­ter­mine whether there were any warn­ing signs that jail of­fi­cials might have missed, he said.

When in­mates are booked into the jail, they’re screened for sui­cide risk, he said. That screen­ing pro­gram be­gan about two years ago in re­sponse to a spate of in­mate sui­cides, Op­grande said. The jail hasn’t seen an in­mate sui­cide since July 5, 2017, when in­mate Nhan T. Nguyen was found hang­ing in his cell two days after be­ing sen­tenced to prison.

“We feel that those ef­forts have at least helped in that re­gard,” Op­grande said.

Gon­za­lez was the third in­mate to die in jail cus­tody in less than a month. On Dec. 16, in­mate Sindi Spray, 24, was found un­re­spon­sive in her cell. Jail staff tried to re­vive her, but Spray was pro­nounced dead at 5:30 p.m. The state med­i­cal ex­am­iner de­ter­mined Spray died of a per­fo­rated ul­cer.

Four days later, in­mate Larry Freed Jr., 36, died at St. An­thony Hos­pi­tal, where he had been taken six days ear­lier to be treated for a pre-ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tion, the sher­iff’s of­fice re­ported. The state med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s of­fice de­ter­mined Freed died of sep­tic shock due to an in­fec­tion of the in­ner lin­ing of the heart.

Freed was the sev­enth, and last, in­mate to die in jail cus­tody in 2018. That to­tal rep­re­sents a de­cline from 2017, when 12 in­mates died in the jail’s cus­tody, and 2016, when 15 in­mates died.


Krys­ten Gon­za­lez, front, pre­pares to paint a hall­way at the City Res­cue Mis­sion in 2014. At the time, Gon­za­lez was a part of a re­cov­ery pro­gram at the res­cue mis­sion. Gon­za­lez died Tues­day after be­ing found un­re­spon­sive at the Ok­la­homa County jail.

Krys­ten Gon­za­lez


The Ok­la­homa County jail is shown in this 2017 photo.

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