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Serna family calls for justice at courthouse rally

Elisa Serna’s family was counting on attending the preliminary hearing for a doctor and nurse charged with her death while in custody at Las Colinas Detention Facility in 2019. Instead, they stood outside the East County Superior Court of California in El Cajon with justice advocates and other family members who have the same tragedy in common and together called for justice.

The hearing was continued and a new date of June 26 was set for Dr. Frederike Von Lintig and nurse Danalee Pascua. Both pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Elisa’s mother, Paloma Serna, said that delay did not deter her plans to make the two days long drive. She was upset because it’s been delayed long enough.


"It’s very frustrating to have it postponed because we have evidence, the evidence is there. We’ve seen the evidence," she said.

That evidence, she said, is unreleased video footage of her daughter inside the detention facility, where she was being held for petty theft. She claims that footage is hours long and shows her 24-year-old daughter’s death while under medical supervision.

"She was pregnant," she said, adding that instead of gaining weight she lost weight. "And the videos it does not show her ever eating, every time she had a seizure they never went in to check on her; they just left her there," she said, adding that after watching the footage it’s clear to her that more people must be held accountable for there to be real justice.

"Then we saw the video and we’re like when are these other deputies going to be arrested too?" she said.

"They all are human beings and they all need justice," said said Yuself Miller, founder of the "Saving Lives in Custody Campaign."


He said that a prison sentence does not mean a death sentence and what makes this worse is that Elisa died before even having her first court hearing, she was not found guilty or sentenced at all and that is the case with most of the families he has unified under the campaign.

"This means they are innocent, they are innocent until proven guilty," Miller said.

He said this is a problem that is still plaguing the system that was exposed in an audit of San Diego County jails conducted by the state last year.

"When the county audit came in on the jail deaths from the state that highlighted the fact that in custody deaths was so high that we’re the highest in the custody death rate in the state," Miller said. "They can run but they can't hide and we will be running right along with them, we'll be following them from court date to court date to make sure that justice is obtained for Elisa Serna."

We reached out to the district attorney’s office and asked if more people would be charged, they said they could not comment on pending criminal cases.

But Paloma Serna said that if all who stood by as her daughter died and did nothing are not held accountable nothing will change and others will have a harder time getting justice.