The family of Michelle Gee, a 41-year-old woman who hung herself inside a medical-ward cell at the Orange County Jail on March 17, 2010, has sued the county over her death. Gee's suicide was first exposed by the Weekly several days after the event, which occurred within hours of a jail tour attended by myself and Weekly reporter R. Scott Moxley, when we learned of it through sources close to the family. Tony Saavedra at the Orange County Register broke the news of the lawsuit for the newspaper yesterday and his article contains a link to the family's actual complaint.
Saavedra's article notes that Gee's death inside the jail's medical ward raises disturbing issues about staffing problems inside the county jail system. Sheriff's spokesman John McDonald assured Reg readers that those problems had been resolved by the time of Gee's death. You can read more about those issues, their possible connection to Gee's suicide, as well as numerous other jail deaths that have occurred in the county jail system over the past year in my feature story from earlier this year, "Who'll Stop the Pain?"
As jail records obtained by the Weekly for that story reveal, a distraught Gee, who was behind bars because she confessed to relapsing at a drug court hearing the day before, had been left alone for several hours in a one-person cell. An inmate whose name was blocked out by sheriff's officials told investigators that Gee, who was suffering from a staph infection in her foot, could be heard yelling for help in the hours before she was discovered dead. The inmate said Gee repeatedly screamed that "she can't do this" and "needed someone in her cell because she did not want to be alone."
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A nurse discovered Gee hanging from a twisted bed sheet just after 4 p.m. that day.