San Diego

Family of woman who died in San Diego County jail sues

The lawsuit filed states that Roselee Bartolacci, 32, had a history of mental illness and "functioned at the level of an eight-year-old and required constant care and assistance from her mother, Roseann Bartolacci"

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The family of a woman who died last year in a San Diego County jail filed a lawsuit this week alleging jail staff ignored the severity of her declining health, leading to her death less than two months after she was booked into custody.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in San Diego federal court states Roselee Bartolacci, 32, had a history of mental illness and "functioned at the level of an eight-year-old and required constant care and assistance from her mother, Roseann Bartolacci."

Bartolacci was arrested in early April. The lawsuit states that in the midst of "suffering from psychosis and hearing voices," she hit her mother with a hammer.

Bartolacci's mother wanted her daughter to be taken to a hospital or a location where she could receive emergency psychiatric treatment, but instead she was jailed, according to the suit.

"Despite Roselee's presentation, known history of mental illness and inability to answer questions, medical intake staff deemed Roselee as 'uncooperative' and cleared her for admission to the jail," the lawsuit alleges.

Once in jail, Bartolacci's health quickly declined as she refused food and psychiatric medications, leading to a hospitalization on April 26, where the lawsuit states one doctor found she "had a high probability of imminent or life-threatening deterioration."

She was hospitalized two more times over the next month and the complaint argues Bartolacci should have been sent to an outside facility to treat her condition.

On May 28, she "was found cold and unresponsive in her filthy cell" and pronounced dead shortly after midnight, according to the suit.

The lawsuit, which names San Diego County, Sheriff Kelly Martinez, and numerous jail employees as defendants, states jail personnel were aware Bartolacci wasn't eating and did not properly treat the diagnoses she received during her April 26 hospitalization, which included acute renal failure and hypokalemia.

This week's complaint states Bartolacci was one of 13 people who died in San Diego County jails last year.

The lawsuit joins numerous others filed in recent years by family members of people who died while in sheriff's custody and was filed shortly after San Diego County settled with the family of Elisa Serna, a 24-year-old woman who died in 2019 at the Las Colinas jail, for $15 million.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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