Another jail death: Buncombe County Detention Center detainee dies hours after booking

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The Buncombe County Detention Facility December 2, 2021.
The Buncombe County Detention Facility December 2, 2021.

A woman who was being detained at the Buncombe County Detention Center died late Jan. 25, the facility's first death of 2022 and its fifth in less than a year.

Maria Christina Frisbee, 41, had been jailed since 6:06 p.m. Jan. 25, according to a release from the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office.

According to BCSO spokesperson Aaron Sarver, she was being held on three Asheville Police Department charges including felony possession of a stolen motor vehicle, felony possession of methamphetamine and misdemeanor simple possession of Schedule III controlled substance.

Sarver said on Jan. 26 BCSO also was able to inform a "nearest living relative" of Frisbee's death and offer condolences.

Frisbee died at 11:46 p.m. at Mission Hospital after being transported there from the detention center at 9:07 p.m.

She was on special watch, which the release said was based on her "previous booking history and disclosure of a history of drug use, including methamphetamine and fentanyl, during the medical screening that took place during the booking process."

Related: State's deadliest jail: Buncombe has worst death rate, Citizen Times investigation shows

More: NC's deadliest jail: Buncombe leaders call for low-barrier homeless shelter, reforms

A detention officer at approximately 8:30 p.m. was conducting supervision rounds and "observed a detainee acting erratically in a holding cell in female booking," according to the release.

The officer went into the holding cell, calling for medical and supervisors.

After a check by the nurse, emergency medical services arrived at the detention center 8:45 p.m., according to the release.

"The cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner pending an autopsy. The SBI and Buncombe County District Attorney have been notified," Sarver said in the release. "The SBI will conduct an independent investigation as is standard practice."

In a Jan. 26 email, Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams said his office was in touch with BCSO facility regarding the death, as per a 2020 memorandum of understanding between the DA's office and law enforcement.

"I have joined the Sheriff's Office in requesting the investigatory assistance of the NC SBI, which is critical to ensure transparency. The SBI verbally confirmed to me that they are on scene this morning opening a case file," he said in the news release.

Sarver adds that initial checks of rounds and review of video and body camera footage shows that "the required rounds were conducted and policies were followed by detention officers and medical staff prior to the medical incident."

A recent Citizen Times analysis found that Buncombe has the deadliest jail out of the 10 largest jails in North Carolina.

This story will be updated.

Andrew Jones is Buncombe County government and health care reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow or reach him at @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter. Email him at arjones@citizentimes.com.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Buncombe Detention Center sees 5th death in less than a year

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