Report says order for transfer not discovered until after Portsmouth inmate’s death

Posted at 5:04 PM, Mar 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-21 23:13:46-04

Portsmouth, Va. - An order to transfer a man to a mental hospital wasn't discovered until after the man died in jail, according to a report from state investigators.

Jamycheal Mitchell had been held in jail for about four months on shoplifting charges when he died in August inside the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. His family said he had a history of mental issues and had been suspected of stealing $5 worth of snacks. Mitchell wasn't let out of jail because a judge found him unfit to stand trial, according to his family.

An internal audit by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services says a judge ordered Mitchell's transfer to Eastern State Hospital in May, but the 24-year old never made it there.

A letter stating the judge's order was allegedly mailed and faxed to the hospital in May. There is no record the hospital received the this order, according to the nearly 30 page document.

In a fax on July 31, a judge "mandated" his order that Mitchell be sent to the hospital. The fax wasn't discovered until after Mitchell's death, the report says. An employee from Eastern State Hospital told investigators she found the cover letter of the order in her desk on August 24, five days after Mitchell's death. The employee, whose name is redacted in the report, was "astonished and distraught" to find the cover letter, according to the report.

In addition, a staff member from Hampton Roads Regional Jail on July 31 that an evaluation be done on Mitchell to determine whether he could be hospitalized involuntarily. The evaluation wasn't done, according to the report.

Mitchell died of probable cardiac arrhythmia accompanying wasting syndrome of unknown etiology, according to the Medical Examiner's Office.

An attorney for Mitchell's family released a statement to NewsChannel 3:

 We are very concerned by the inactions detailed in the internal audit report.

We also note that our investigation has revealed other troubling circumstances related to Jamycheal’s care and treatment.

Jamycheal died a wretched death alone in a Hampton Roads Regional Jail cell.   When EMS personnel arrived at his cell, they were repulsed by the stench of urine and feces.  The Office of the Chief Medical examiner described Jamycheal as “nearly cachectic,” a term normally used to describe gaunt patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, and certain other illnesses.  Records indicate that in the first three months of his four-month confinement, Jamycheal lost approximately 34 pounds.

His family is especially haunted by the images of his final days in the cell.  Other inmates report Jamycheal uncharacteristically slumped on the rack in his cell and pleading for medical help, but his requests, and pleas from other inmates on his behalf, went unanswered.

I personally cannot think of a greater priority for the Commonwealth than to ensure that circumstances like this never happen again. Indeed my charge from Jamycheal's family is to do just that - take action to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

-Mark J. Krudys, The Krudys Law Firm