Inmate could have survived pneumonia if treated earlier, coroner's report says
Friday May 14, 2004
By SUSAN SKILES LUKE
Associated Press Writer
BENTON, Ill. (AP) In the days before a troublesome inmate died of pneumonia, county jail guards and a doctor witnessed the man drooling, making incoherent noise and falling out of bed, but they believed he was faking illness and blamed behavior problems.
Anthony Snyder might have survived if he had been treated sooner, a coroner's report this week concluded. Jail guards said they didn't realize Snyder was sick.
``Snyder was a faker,'' Sheriff Bill Wilson said weeks after Snyder's death in January.
Wilson said this week that Snyder had always been a troublemaker who refused to take his medicine for depression and wouldn't cooperate with jail staff. He had faked a stabbing and went on a hunger strike, according to the sheriff.
On Jan. 21, four days before Snyder slipped into a coma, ``Anthony complained he could not move,'' a guard wrote, according to a copy of the notes obtained by The Associated Press.
The next day, ``he appeared having trouble sitting up,'' another wrote. By Jan. 23, ``he appeared to be rigid, was drooling, and making incoherent noise,'' another guard wrote.
A guard's notes on Jan. 24 show Snyder was found on the floor four times and was picked up and placed back in his bunk.
A lawyer Snyder's family had recently hired visited Snyder on Jan. 25 and found him unconscious. The lawyer, Paula Newcomb, called the sheriff at home, and Wilson told guards to call an ambulance. Snyder died three days later at a hospital.
Wilson said he is confident the jail staff did everything they could for Snyder, including calling a doctor, who examined him the morning of Jan. 25, hours before Newcomb found him unconscious.
The doctor blamed voluntary behavioral problems, notes from the exam show, and Wilson said the staff was told nothing was wrong.
The FBI and the Illinois State Police investigated Snyder's death, both agencies said Friday. No state charges have been filed, and the U.S. Justice Department will determine whether any federal charges will be filed, said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Marshall Stone.
The Snyder family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Wilson, demanding he pay more than $50,000 in damages for failing to prevent his death. They want any money to go to his 5-year-old son, said Therese Snyder, his sister.
``They let him lay there and watched him die,'' she said.
Anthony Snyder, 36, spent more than a year in the Franklin County jail awaiting trial on robbery charges from 2002. He couldn't afford the $125,000 bail.
The final autopsy report released by Coroner Mike Hurst this week described bed sores on Snyder's back, buttocks, elbows and feet. Wilson said those wounds were caused by falls from the bunk, not from lying in it for an extended period.
Health Professionals Ltd. in Peoria contracts with Franklin County to provide medical care for the jail. Wilson said Snyder had been checked regularly by the company's doctors. Company spokesman Doug Ivers declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)