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Jail deaths in Georgia: Pleas for help ended in tragedy

Suicides are a leading cause of jail deaths in Georgia. The stories of Kimberly Clements and Demilo Glover were among the 168 cases documented in the AJC/Channel 2/News Lab investigation.

‘Let the bitch kill herself’

Kimberly Clements, a 30-year-old wife and mother, told people she couldn’t survive jail.

Clements was on probation for writing bad checks when authorities arrested her on charges of theft and property damage on July 21, 2011.

She told a fellow inmate and a probation officer the next day that she’d kill herself if she had to stay behind bars, according to a federal lawsuit and investigative records. When Candler County Sheriff Homer Bell heard his inmate was suicidal, he responded: “Let the bitch kill herself,” according to investigative and court records.

Jailers placed Clements alone in a cell. Hours after she threatened to kill herself, inmates found her dead. She’d hung herself from a shower curtain rod. When an emergency medical crew arrived, they found Clements in her cell, cold and blue, lying in what appeared to be a puddle of water with flies hovering around her open mouth.

In their wrongful death lawsuit, her family accused the sheriff and one of his jailers of failing to follow jail policies to protect people from self-harm. An expert witness for the family said it was the most brazen failure he’d ever seen of jail leadership’s responsibility to protect people in custody, including those at risk of suicide.

“They just put her in there … and let her be,” said Clements’ mother, Linda Jenkins.

The family eventually reached a settlement. In 2015, Bell retired after 34 years as sheriff. In a recent interview, he said of the inmate who died on his watch: “She was high on dope and we had her in the holding tank and she hung herself is all I know.”

 — Naomi Thomas, News Lab

‘Breakdown’ in a Savannah jail

On his first attempt to hang himself at the Chatham County Jail in 2017, records show Demilo Glover’s noose gave way and he tumbled onto his cell bunk.

A minute later, he reattached the noose and tried again. This time the noose held.

Even though surveillance video inside the jail’s medical unit captured both suicide attempts, jail staff failed to intervene, records show.

Staff responded after they spotted Glover’s motionless body on surveillance monitors, but by the time they entered his cell, it was too late.

Glover’s arrest eight days earlier for drunken driving and other traffic violations set in motion a series of bizarre and troubled behavior that ended with his death.

Glover suffered from bipolar disorder, according to family. Several days into his incarceration, staff heard Glover talking to himself, according to investigative records. He told them he saw a little boy with a can of green beans who would not leave him alone.

Staff transferred Glover to mental health observation in the medical unit, where policy required a check every 15 minutes. Medical staff told investigators Glover was crying and asking for his medication. Another time, they said he “took off his jumpsuit, bent over in front of the (surveillance) camera, slapped his butt, and said, ‘you can all kiss my ass.’”

Glover’s girlfriend, Carol Brown, visited him just days before his death. She said he told her the medicine he was receiving in jail “wasn’t doing him any good.” Glover was “nervous and jittery” and wanted to go home.

Brown said she attempted to give jail staff a list of his medications, so that he “wouldn’t have a breakdown.”

“They wouldn’t accept anything,” she said.

For Brown, the grief can seem overwhelming.

“I miss him every day,” she said. “I’m stuck and I can’t move forward, but I try.”

 — Avery Braxton, News Lab

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