Jennings County prosecutor clears Jennings jail staff of criminal wrongdoing in death of inmate

NORTH VERNON Jennings County Jail staff members were cleared Tuesday of any criminal wrongdoing in the jail death earlier this year of inmate Sandra Ray.

“The office of the Jennings County Prosecuting Attorney finds that no crimes were committed by employees and/or other inmates of the Jennings County Jail related to the death of Ray and that no criminal charges are warranted,” concludes a report released Tuesday by Jennings County Prosecutor Brian Belding.

Ray, 35, of North Vernon, was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated on the afternoon of May 24 by a Jennings County Sheriff’s Office deputy and tested with a blood alcohol concentration of .267, more than three times the legal limit, the report says.

She was placed on an alcohol withdrawal assessment watch, according to the report, and jailers checked on her on the evening of May 24, the early morning hours of May 25 and about 24 hours later. A jailer entered her cell at 7:37 a.m. on May 26 and found her unresponsive, the report says, and attempts at advanced life support failed.

An autopsy that morning determined Ray’s cause of death was complications from chronic alcoholism and withdrawal. Indiana State Police were notified of the jail death and undertook an investigation.

“The State Police investigator watched the entirety of the video surveillance and did not observe any act or omission by anyone that interacted with Ray while she was in the custody of the Jennings County Jail that would constitute a crime,” Belding wrote in his report. “Furthermore, the Indiana State Police investigator interviewed all jail personnel that came into contact with Ray while she was in the custody of the Jennings County Jail. Based on those interviews, there was no additional evidence that any person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly committed an act or omission that would constitute a crime.”

According to the review of jail video, Ray appeared to take her final breath at about 3:41 a.m. on May 26, nearly four hours before a jailer found her unresponsive in her cell.

Whether jail staff may have negligently breached a duty of care to Ray, Belding wrote, “is a matter of civil law and not criminal law.”

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Republic.