Amy Lynn Cross pleaded for help for hours, as her fingers turned blue and she foamed at the mouth, before dying in her Weld County jail cell last year, a new lawsuit alleges.
It took seven hours, despite pleas from the 41-year-old woman and deputies’ concerns, before the jail’s health team called an ambulance, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Colorado. Cross might have lived, her lawyers say, if they had paid attention to signs that she was experiencing a drug overdose.
“Amy Cross was made to die alone on the floor of her cell as her organs shut down because the jail medical staff refused to send her to the hospital even as her fingers turned blue due to lack of oxygen,” attorney Erica Grossman told The Colorado Sun. “It’s inhumane what they did. Amy Cross deserved better.”
Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams, who oversees the jail, declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying he does not discuss pending litigation. Oklahoma-based Turn Key Health Clinics, which contracts with the county to provide medical service to inmates, did not immediately return a request for comment. Four employees contracted through Turn Key were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The county’s board of commissioners, also named in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
An autopsy revealed Cross, a mother of three, died of methamphetamine toxicity after an undetected bag of drugs inside her body broke open two days after she was booked into the Greeley jail in September 2021, according to the lawsuit. When she was booked into the jail, she told staff about her struggles with addiction and recent drug use.
After Cross became erratic and started to yell about chest pain, deputies summoned all available nursing and security staff to respond, the lawsuit stated. As her symptoms escalated, nursing staff reportedly advised deputies to report all new symptoms directly to the nursing staff.
The medical team said she would not be sent to the hospital regardless of her symptoms because she was “acting a fool,” the lawsuit stated.
Nursing staff tried to perform medical tests on Cross, but was unable to as she would not remain still, according to the lawsuit, and she spit out the withdrawal medication she was given.
Deputies reported Cross’ worsening condition to the medical staff throughout the night as they watched Cross flail her body and start to shake, as if she was having a seizure, and she began to spit up a brown liquid.
By the time the jail’s medical staff called 9-1-1, Cross was lying unresponsive on the floor of her cell with her face discolored, her eyes rolled back and without a pulse, her attorneys claim. When paramedics arrived, they declared Cross dead 20 minutes later.
“She was clearly showing objective signs of deterioration — foaming at the mouth, fingers turning blue, high pulse rate, chest pain, seizure-like activity, acting erratic, begging for help,” Grossman said. “These are all signs that any human being, nevermind a trained medical professional, would be able to see that person needs medical attention.”
Cross’ attorneys also claim the nursing staff told paramedics that Cross had not complained about her health throughout the day and that her symptoms started 20 minutes prior to them arriving.
Turn Key contracts with correctional facilities in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Texas and Colorado. It provides health care to inmates while “controlling the program’s financial burdens on the citizens of the community,” its website states.
By the time the Weld County Sheriff’s Office signed a contract with Turn Key in December 2019, the health care provider had been named in more than 100 lawsuits, accusing its staff of providing inadequate medical care to inmates, according to Tuesday’s lawsuit.
Cross’ family, including her sister and three young children, is seeking an unspecified amount of money to cover damages for her death.
“I think they deserve significant justice for what happened to their mom,” Grossman said.