Amanda Lewis 1

The late Amanda Lewis, left, with her children David Lewis and Heaven Lewis in an undated submitted photo. 

JEFFERSONVILLE — Results of a more than two-month investigation into the death of a woman who died while held in the Clark County jail point to natural causes, specifically underlying health issues.

Amanda Lewis, 42, was found unresponsive in her cell at 7:34 p.m. July 5, the Clark County Sheriff's Office previously reported. Staff rendered first aid and Lewis was transported to Clark Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 8:16 p.m.

Clark County Coroner Billy Scott reported that Lewis died from sepsis resulting from a staph infection over a matter of hours and multiple pulmonary abscesses over the matter of days, with a history of intravenous drug use a contributing factor.

The case, investigated by the Floyd County Sheriff's Department at the request of Clark County, was closed Friday and turned over to the Clark County Sheriff's Office after receiving the official cause of death.

Floyd County Sheriff Frank Loop said they reviewed video of Lewis at the jail, interviewed everyone who was on duty and in her cell block, pulled her jail files and reviewed toxicology and autopsy reports, looking for inconsistencies.

"If there were any abnormalities, we would turn those over to the prosecutor," Loop said. "We do not have a criminal case in that death."

Lewis was arrested July 1 on charges of theft, trespassing and possession of a syringe and narcotics after police say she took $119 in merchandise from Walmart. Online court records reflect that Lewis attended a hearing in Clark County on July 2 in another case, but refused to attend initial hearings for the theft case on July 3 and 5.

According to the investigation report complied by the Floyd County Sheriff's Department, Lewis was removed from the general population and placed in a segregation cell July 3, after her first refusal to attend the hearing. No reason for her refusal is listed in either the report or court records.

On July 5, Lewis was assessed by the jail nurse after complaining of diarrhea and nausea, according to the investigation report. The coroner's report also states that she was described by the nurse as "lethargic but oriented, unsteady gait and pale, warm, sweaty skin," it reads, in part.

When asked, police officials could not immediately say if Lewis received treatment of any kind after being seen by the nurse.

Lewis' daughter, Heaven Lewis, said she believes her mother's death could have been prevented.

"It's a little expected that she contracted an infection such as staph due to her drug issues," she said in a text message, after she was notified of the cause of death. "However it's a little heart-wrenching knowing she was suffering for days with no help."

Heaven Lewis said the two-month wait to find out the results of the autopsy and toxicology reports has been difficult. There were so many questions surrounding Lewis' death, some of which remain unanswered, she said. "We're doing the best we can under the circumstances."

An autopsy was performed July 6 by pathologist Dr. Thomas Sozio, who found Lewis' cause of death to be an accidental overdose of fentanyl and methamphetamine. Investigators also reported finding several "suspicious items," in her cell following her death, including a bag with pink residue, which later field tested positive for heroin and meth.

But the lead Floyd County investigator and the deputy coroner disagreed with the pathologist's findings, contending that an accidental overdose didn't line up with the low levels of both heroin and methamphetamine in her system.

The investigation showed there were 2 mg/mL of fentanyl present in her system and 8.9 mg/mL of methamphetamine. The coroner's report states that fatal fentanyl blood levels range from 2 to 100 mg/mL, with an average range of 8 to 20. Methamphetamine levels can frequently exceed 1,000 mg/mL and her 8.9 mg/mL was barely above the detection level of 5.

A second pathologist, Dr. James Jacobi, reviewed the case and found Lewis to have died of natural causes by sepsis from the staph infection and multiple abscesses — facts the first pathologist noted but did not include in his cause of death.

Loop said investigations into any jail matters in the area are usually conducted by another county police department; they understand the inner workings of the jails, he said.

"If there's an investigation that needs to be done in the jail, we contact each other to do that," he said. "We feel like it's best that another sheriff do the investigation because they have the knowledge [of the jail] such as the state police may not."

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

Recommended for you