Whatcom County Jail inmate dies after hanging herself in cell

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 11, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - An inmate at Whatcom County Jail died after hanging herself in her cell Monday, March 10, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office.

A corrections deputy who was helping with medication deliveries found Shannon Rose Jefferson, 36, hanging with a bed sheet tied around her neck at about 1:15 p.m. in her cell on the third floor of the jail.

The deputy had gone to the cell because Jefferson didn't respond to calls over the intercom to come to her cell door, according to the Sheriff's Office. The deputy and a nurse went into the cell, cut the sheet and immediately started CPR and called for paramedics.

She was taken to St. Joseph hospital, where she was placed on life support. She died in the early evening.

An autopsy found injuries consistent with strangulation by a bed sheet and no other unexpected, inflicted or unaccounted-for trauma, Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel said in an email.

Jefferson had been booked into jail Feb. 26 for failing to appear in court for both fourth-degree assault and a probation violation. Jefferson was in an isolation cell after being separated from the general jail population for issues that Undersheriff Jeff Parks wouldn't specify, though he said it was "nothing that would lead us to believe she was going to harm herself in any way."

A deputy had returned her to her cell from a routine jail interview about 30 minutes before she was found. Parks said deputies try to check on the inmates at least once an hour, or as frequently as every 10 to 15 minutes if they're under watch. Jefferson wasn't under any watch or special status, Parks said.

Jefferson's death is under investigation, with help from the Bellingham Police Department, the medical examiner and the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Parks expected more details to be available next week.

Reach Zoe Fraley at zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com or 360-756-2803. Read the Dispatcher Blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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