San Juan County Sheriff's Office investigates three deaths at detention center

Steve Garrison
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Three inmates have died while incarcerated at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center in the first three months of 2015 — an unusually high number of deaths for the facility, according to statistics provided by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff's Office Detective Lt. Kyle Lincoln said in an email Tuesday that his office investigated one suicide and one death in 2012, one death in 2013 and one suicide in December 2014.

By comparison, the Doña Ana County Detention Center — which houses an average daily inmate population of about 700, similar to that of the San Juan County jail — had two inmate deaths in 2012, one death in 2013 and zero deaths in 2014, according to spokeswoman Kelly Jameson of the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office.

Lt. Keith Elder of the Sandoval County Sheriff's Office said his office investigated two deaths at the Sandoval County Detention Center in 2014, zero deaths in 2013 and one death in 2012. The Sandoval County jail typically houses a population of between 300 and 400 inmates, a spokesman said.

Lincoln confirmed Friday that his office is currently investigating the deaths of three inmates at the San Juan County Jail — Sharon Jones, 58; William "Billy" Carter, 57; and Jesus Marquez, 34 — all of whom were being held in connection to criminal offenses committed in San Juan County.

Jail Administrator Tom Havel declined to comment on the deaths, citing the investigation by the sheriff's office.

Carter died in the medical ward at the jail on Feb. 13, Lincoln said, and Marquez died at San Juan Regional Medical Center on March 3.

Lincoln said his office is awaiting autopsy and toxicology reports for Carter and Marquez, and what killed them is currently unknown.

The Daily Times obtained the autopsy and toxicology reports for Jones, who was being held at the jail for a probation violation, by filing a public records request with the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator.

According to the autopsy report, Jones was in the medical unit at the jail on Jan. 4 after complaining of severe pain in the hip and a generalized pain throughout the body. She was provided pain medication on the night of Jan. 4 and went to bed, the report states.

She awoke two hours later and complained of pain, but was not provided additional medication, the report states.

She was found unresponsive early the next morning and transported to the emergency center at the San Juan Regional Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead, according to the report.

Jones had a medical history of left hip arthritis, hypertension, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression, the report states. She also had a history of prescription drug and alcohol abuse.

Jones died of sepsis resulting from a bacterial infection, the report states, specifically Group A streptococcal.

The bacteria is typically transmitted through person-to-person contact, the report states. It can cause throat and skin infections, as well as more severe infections of the bone or blood.

The report states that a primary source for Jones' infection was not found, and no illicit substances were found in her system at the time of death.

According to court records, Jones was arrested on a bench warrant in October after failing to meet with a probation officer. She had also tested positive in April 2014 for methamphetamine and alcohol use, records state.

According to an obituary for Jones, she was born in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 10, 1956. She graduated from Greensville High School in Illinois in 1974 and worked for several years as a draftperson before moving to Colorado, where she married J. Scott Jones in 1984.

She is survived by two children and three siblings.

Carter was being held at the jail on a $200,000 bond after being charged in March 2014 in Aztec Magistrate Court with 12 counts of criminal sexual contact of a child younger than 13 and one count of bribery of a witness, according to court records.

Carter, a registered sex offender, maintained trailer parks in Bloomfield, Aztec, Kirtland and Farmington, according to The Daily Times archive, and was arrested April 18 by Bloomfield police officers after being accused of molesting seven children.

Marquez was being held at the jail on felony assault charges filed in Aztec Magistrate Court in July.

According to a police report, Marquez was accused of threatening his girlfriend with a knife and kicking her in the knee at a party, causing bruising and swelling.

The Daily Times has also requested autopsy and toxicology reports for Marquez and Carter. A spokeswoman for the Office of the Medical Investigator said last week it takes an average of 12 weeks to comply with a records request.

Last week, 18 current and former inmates filed a lawsuit against the San Juan County Adult Detention Center claiming that they received inadequate or negligent medical care while incarcerated at the facility.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs claim that the jail intentionally refused to transport inmates to the hospital for treatment in order to save the county money.

Four inmates — Steve Parrish, Aurelio Marquez, Adam Schuessler and Thomas Knight — claim in the lawsuit that they were denied antibiotics while incarcerated.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.