Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies cleared in inmate’s detox death

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Detention Facility
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Detention Facility.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies were cleared of wrongdoing in the death of a jail inmate, Ashley Raisbeck, who was in detox protocol when she died last year.

Raisbeck was 27 when she was arrested last December by Wheat Ridge Police on a warrant for false reporting. She pleaded guilty and started a 28-day sentence in the Jefferson County jail. At the time of her arrest, she was in possession of methamphetamine and fentanyl.

According to a letter from Jeffco District Attorney Alexis King, Raisbeck admitted on intake that she smoked “50 Fentanyl pills per day for the last eight and a half years,” and had used meth and fentanyl the day before her arrest. She was medically cleared to be booked into the jail. “She appeared under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and had visible signs of withdrawal,” and was placed on a detox protocol and given her own cell.

Three days after her arrest, on the day of her death, deputies reported that Raisbeck was still detoxing “looking worn down and tired.” She was able to stand with difficulty and stumbled during the roll call that morning. Raisbeck told a deputy she was okay, according to the District Attorney.

Raisbeck was put on a clear liquid diet, and deputies encouraged her to hydrate. Her blood pressure was so weak that a nurse could not get a reading. Raisbeck was in the process of being transferred to the medical unit in a wheelchair when “her head fell backwards, and she became unresponsive.”

The medical staff gave her IV fluids and multiple rounds of Narcan and called an ambulance. Raisbeck became unresponsive on the ride to St. Anthony’s hospital and was pronounced deceased shortly upon arrival.

A toxicology report found that Raisbeck had methamphetamine and norfentanyl in her system at the time of death. The coroner ruled her death was caused by “complications of intussusception,” an intestinal disorder. The death was ruled to be from natural causes.

“Upon review by my office, Ms. Raisbeck’s death was not caused by any criminal actions taken by law enforcement,” King ruled.

Attorney Anita Springsteen said Raisbeck’s mother was devastated upon reading the letter from the DA. “She had hoped to get more information and more answers,” said Springsteen. “So she was really disappointed that it wasn't going to lead to that.”

Springsteen said that the DA’s letter fails to address the hours that passed between the morning when Raisbeck was stumbling and not well to when she was finally moved to the medical unit. And Springsteen took issue with the DA highlighting Raisbeck’s history of drug use.

“It looks like what they did was try to dehumanize and villainize an innocent person that they killed,” said Springsteen. “They made that letter more about bringing up irrelevant facts about her drug use, then focusing on what was relevant, which was whether law enforcement did anything wrong.”

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.