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Public Safety

Family Of Woman Who Died In Las Colinas Jail Sues County, Sheriff

The outside entrance of Las Colinas prison in Santee is shown Aug. 15, 2019.
Andi Dukleth
The outside entrance of Las Colinas prison in Santee is shown Aug. 15, 2019.

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of the family of a 24-year-old woman who died last fall at the Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee.

Elisa Serna died Nov. 11, a few days after she was booked into the county jail.

Earlier this year, the sheriff's department said Serna died from complications of drug abuse, with a contributing factor of early intrauterine pregnancy.


The lawsuit filed in San Diego federal court alleges jail staff were aware of Serna's substance abuse and subsequent withdrawal symptoms, but did not provide her with treatment. Though Serna was fainting, had low blood pressure, was vomiting regularly and displaying odd and incoherent behavior, jail staff "ignored the obvious signs of medical distress" and "failed to provide proper medication as Elisa's condition was worsening," the complaint alleges.

Sheriff's officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the suit, which names San Diego County and Sheriff Bill Gore as defendants.

Plaintiffs in the suit include Serna's parents, Michael and Paloma Serna; her husband, Brandon Honeycutt, and a minor child referred to as S.H.

The sheriff's department has come under fire recently over a spate of deaths among county jail inmates, which were referenced within the complaint.

The lawsuit cited news reports indicating the county had the highest jail mortality rate among the state's largest counties, and said prior deaths from inmates suffering from withdrawal symptoms should have made jail staff aware of the potentially fatal consequences of those symptoms.


The suit also alleges staff are inadequately trained and in-custody deaths at county jails are not being properly investigated.

"Even though inmates are dying or suffering catastrophic injuries at an alarming rate at San Diego County jails, the medical and correctional staff whose actions or inactions cause the deaths are not investigated; not informed of their failures; not given further training or remedial instruction; and are not monitored or closely supervised after these adverse events," the lawsuit alleges.

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