El Dorado County Jail procedure issue results in $1,000,000 settlement in death of seriously mentally ill man
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He battled depression and was arrested on a DUI charge. Then he was found dead in his cell
Updated August 28, 2018 06:02 PM
Lawrence “Jake” Spies Jr. had a history of depression and tried to kill himself over the years, including a jump off a bridge in El Dorado County in 2014.
Another time, he tried to jump out of a hotel window in Irvine. In another instance, he set his clothing on fire and was arrested after being found naked and suffering from hypothermia.
Spies, 34, killed himself on Sept. 19, 2015, by hanging himself at the El Dorado County Jail in Placerville, where he had been placed alone in a cell in the middle of the night after an arrest for suspected drunken driving.
Now, the county and a company that provides medical services at the jail have agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Sacramento attorney Stewart Katz.
The settlement calls for El Dorado County to pay $500,000 and California Forensic Medical Group to pay $550,000. It comes two years after Katz filed a lawsuit in federal court in Sacramento that alleged Spies had been left alone in the cell and not checked for hours despite sheriff’s officials knowing Spies’ lengthy history of depression and suicidal behavior.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the inmate’s parents, Lawrence Spies Sr. and Linda Spies, and the settlement does not assign blame to either the county or CFMG for the suicide.
Neither the sheriff’s department nor CFMG responded to messages seeking comment.
The lawsuit blamed El Dorado County officials for a lack of staffing at the jail that prevents regular, required cell checks on inmates.
It also claimed deputies knew Spies was suicidal and that he had attempted to hang himself in the same jail in 2012.
Spies, a 1999 Ponderosa High School graduate, was arrested near his family home in Lotus, and his mother explained her son’s troubled past to deputies, the lawsuit says.
Doctors at Marshall Medical Center in Placerville, where Spies was taken for evaluation before going to jail, also found him to be depressed and intoxicated, but they cleared him for incarceration, the lawsuit says.
Spies hanged himself using torn bedding that was tied to a ladder leading to the top bunk in his cell, the suit said.