For nearly 16 hours, Ta'Neasha Chappell pleaded with the staff of the Jackson County, Indiana, jail for medical care. She repeatedly vomited blood, became dehydrated and asked several times to be taken to the hospital.
But as Chappell's pleas grew more anguished, the guards on duty grew more irritated, audio recordings from the jail show.
"I don't know what you want me to do unless you're coughing up something crazy," one told Chappell at 1:33 a.m. July 16.
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It was Chappell's fourth call for help in five hours, according to a series of 18 audio recordings from the jail provided by Chappell family attorney Sam Aguiar.
Before 6 p.m., Chappell would be dead.
"You can hear the decline," Aguiar said of Chappell's condition as time drug on. "You could have put any rational human being on the other end of that intercom and they would have known that something was incredibly wrong."
Chappell, 23, of Louisville, was in the custody of the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown, Indiana, about 50 miles north of Louisville, on charges stemming from an alleged May 26 theft and high-speed chase when she died July 16 at a nearby hospital.
In December, Prosecutor Jeffrey Chalfant declined to bring criminal charges against any jail employees for Chappell's death. A 15-page report by the Indiana State Police determined no one was criminally liable for Chappell's death, Chalfant said.
Aguiar provided the recordings from the jail in the hours leading up to her death. Most of the clips are Chappell imploring jail staff for help, though some involve other incarcerated women asking for help on her behalf.
Even though Chalfant declined to prosecute, Aguiar hopes the recordings prompt federal officials to take a deeper look at the jail.
"The state dropped the ball, but at the same time, the feds also have criminal civil rights violations they can pursue above and beyond state law neglect," he said. "Because these violations were so blatant, we count on the feds in these situations. … There needs to be awareness, but there needs to be a deterrent for these things in the future."
Less than a month after Chappell's death, Joshua McLemore, also a prisoner of the Jackson County Jail, also died. He was released to a hospital Aug. 8 and died two days later after being diagnosed with several severe conditions, including low oxygen levels, deteriorating muscle tissue and kidney failure.
A previous Courier Journal investigation found the jail had a long history of overcrowding, past accusations of medical negligence and a previous in-custody death in 2020.
'I need help'
Starting just after 8:30 p.m. July 15, Chappell told jail staff she had vomited blood. She continued to relay that to staff throughout the night and ask to be taken to the hospital.
"I spoke to the sergeant, and he said that the nurse will see you in the morning," one jail employee said at 3:12 a.m.
About five hours later, another woman called on Chappell's behalf, saying "she can't get up."
Soon after, the recordings captured a male voice asking Chappell if she had ever taken omeprazole, which is used to reduce stomach acid for conditions such as acid reflux and stomach ulcers.
But within the hour, Chappell again phoned for help, saying she was vomiting.
For more than a minute at 9:55 a.m., a recording captured Chappell repeatedly moaning "I need help." There's no response from jail staff on that clip.
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Another prisoner tried to get correctional officers to help Chappell at 11:16 a.m. because she couldn't notify them herself.
"Well if she needs something, she'll have to hit the button," the female employee replied.
Chappell asked for help twice more in the next hour, at times speaking too faintly or incomprehensibly to understand.
Staff eventually called EMS to the jail, where they found Chappell "lying prone on a bedroll on a cell floor," at 3:26 p.m. EMS took Chappell to Schneck Medical Center at 3:52 p.m., and she died there less than two hours later.
The Indiana State Police report, prosecutor Chalfant noted, "makes no findings and no conclusions about the standard of care provided by employees of the Jackson County Jail."
It added that an autopsy found the cause as "probable toxicity" with an unknown substance.
Notes from an ER report previously stated there was "concern the patient maybe ingested ethylene glycol or methanol."
But the prosecutor's new report said initial forensic lab test results "did not reveal any positive findings of toxicological significance."
And though hospital emergency room personnel noted Chappell had symptoms similar to "anti-freeze poisoning," testing done by another crime lab "revealed no anti-freeze in Ms. Chappell’s body," Chalfant found.
Chappell's family has filed a federal lawsuit against Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer, Jail Commander Chris Everhart and seven other jail employees. The suit remains open and ongoing.
Reach Tessa Duvall at firstname.lastname@example.org and 502-582-4059. Twitter: @TessaDuvall.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Ta'Neasha Chappell: Louisville woman begged for help before jail death