Mother suing after 19-year-old son dies of gangrene at Madison County jail

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - How can an unpaid parking ticket earn a young man a death sentence? That's what his mother is asking.

As previously reported by our news partners, The Huntsville Times/AL.com, 19-year-old Deundrez Woods died August 21, 2013 at Huntsville Hospital - two days after being found unresponsive in a medical observation cell at the Madison County Jail.

Tanyatta Woods, mother of Deundrez Woods, with his young son Jailyn (Gregg Stone/WHNT News 19)

Tanyatta Woods, mother of Deundrez Woods, with his young son Jailyn (Gregg Stone/WHNT News 19)

His mother, Tanyatta Woods, is now suing Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning, Chief Deputy Steve Morrison, and Advanced Correctional Healthcare Inc, along with several of its employees.

ACH is contracted to provide medical services to jail inmates. The lawsuit alleges the company has been negligent in the standard of care provided to inmates, in an effort to save money.

"I don't want any other parent to go through what I went through," Tanyatta Woods said Thursday. "Because you don't want to see a 19-year-old child get locked up, never been in trouble, goes in a county jail and don't come out."

Watch our full report Thursday on WHNT News 19 at 5:00 p.m.

RELATED: AL.com also spoke with Woods about the lawsuit on Thursday.

Deundrez Woods was arrested on June 24, 2013 for allegedly shoplifting some DVD's from Walmart and passing a phony $100 bill. However, his mother later learned he also had a warrant out for an unpaid parking ticket.

Deundrez Woods holds his son, Jailyn

Deundrez Woods holds his son, Jailyn

That was enough to send Woods to jail immediately. Tanyatta Woods says he was sentenced to 60 days.

It was a sentence he would never complete.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges the following timeline of events:

  • Late July/early August: Woods begins experiencing a severe and sudden change in mental functioning
  • August 6: Woods is confused, hallucinating and unable to communicate with corrections or medical personnel. He is moved into a medical observation cell. This is the last time his vital signs will be taken. It's also the last record of him eating or drinking.
  • August 6, 9 and 14: Woods is tased for uncooperative behavior
  • August 7: Woods is checked on by a doctor at the jail. This is the last time he'll be seen by the jail doctor.
  • August 12: Woods' water supply is cut off.
  • August 14-19: Woods definitively does not eat during this time. He receives no assessment or treatment. No nurse enters his cell. He makes no noise and lies naked on the floor of his cell.
  • August 15: Woods is unable to stand or walk. Corrections personnel dress him and take him to court in a wheelchair. His mother is told he's having mental issues.
  • August 17: The gangrenous wound on top of Woods' right foot is clearly visible. The wound and leaking bodily fluids have begun to produce a foul odor. Corrections personnel drag him from his cell to a shower, where he is sprayed with water. He is returned, naked, to a different cell.
  • August 19: Woods is found completely unresponsive. Emergency personnel are called. He is taken to Huntsville Hospital.
  • August 21: Woods is declared dead at Huntsville Hospital.

According to plaintiff's attorney Hank Sherrod, Woods is not the only inmate to die at the Madison County jail due to negligence. Sherrod says the contract between ACH and Madison County provides financial incentive for both parties to delay or deny outside treatment.

If quarterly outside medical care costs - such as those incurred at a hospital - exceed $200,000, the county pays the overage. If the costs are less than$200,000, ACH keeps the difference as profit.

Sherrod is also representing the families of Nikki Listau and Tanisha Jefferson. Both women were incarcerated at the Madison County jail when they died.

Listau died on March 11, 2013, following a fall from her bunk.  Jefferson died that October of a bowel obstruction.

"Only a place that has lost a real part of its humanity could do this much damage to this many families in such a short time," Sherrod said.

When contacted for comment, attorneys representing ACH provided this statement: "ACH is pleased to have the opportunity to partner with Madison County to provide quality healthcare to inmates at the Madison County Detention Center. ACH takes seriously the allegations made by the family of Deundrez Woods and ACH intends to vigorously defend the claims made against ACH. As far (sp) as a comment on the details of the claims, it is our policy not to discuss the details outside of the courtroom."

Attorneys for the defendants filed this response to the lawsuit.

The attorney representing Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning and Chief Deputy Steve Morrison did not respond to requests for comment.

U.S. District Judge Inge Johnson denied motions from the defendants to dismiss the case, meaning the lawsuit can go forward. The next phase is discovery.