Overdose in Scott County Jail has department seeking answers

Friday, April 19, 2019

BENTON, Mo. — Scott County Sheriff’s Office investigators are trying to find out how illicit drugs are entering the Scott County Jail after a suspected overdose left an inmate hospitalized last week.

The incident occurred at the same facility where three jailers were hospitalized last September after being exposed to another illicit drug, fentanyl.

Chief deputy Ryan Dennis of the Scott County Sheriff’s Department told the Southeast Missourian in a phone interview Thursday the investigation into last week’s incident is ongoing, but investigators have learned methamphetamine may have been what caused the seizures sending inmate A’Dante Blackmon to the hospital last Thursday.

“I can tell you it’s not been confirmed, but we have heard that, too, and we are investigating at this time those allegations,” he said.

Dennis said Blackmon was found having seizures and was transported to Saint Francis Medical Center but said no drugs were found on the inmate or near where he was found.

Blackmon’s mother, Lezley Ellis, of Sikeston told the Southeast Missourian methamphetamine was what caused her son’s overdose.

Dennis said inmates are thoroughly searched upon entering the jail by officers who watch inmates undress before screening their clothes and person for drugs and other contraband.

“I mean, I’m not gonna lie, there’s several options they could have got it by [the screening officers,]” Dennis said. “They could have hid it on their person if you know what I mean, hid it in their person ... (or) to be honest with you, I’m not gonna lie, we’re gonna investigate, but we could also have a dirty employee that’s bringing it in. That’s what we’re investigating. We’re trying to figure it out ourselves.”

Dennis said the sheriff’s department has not requested the investigation be conducted by an outside agency, but said the day after Blackmon was hospitalized, the department had one of the Cape Girardeau Police Department’s K-9 units conduct a “shakedown” of the entire jail facility. No drugs were found during that sweep, Dennis said.

Last September, three jailers were hospitalized after coming into contact with fentanyl, a powerful opioid, which Dennis said was brought into the jail by an inmate, Foshonta Chatman. Chatman was later charged with possession of a controlled substance, tampering with evidence, four counts of assault and making a terrorist threat.

Despite these incidents, Dennis said jailers and inmates at the Scott County Jail are safe.

Ellis told the Southeast Missourian she wondered if employees at the jail were involved with trafficking drugs inside the facility. She also expressed her dismay jail staff did not contact her to let her know her son had been hospitalized.

“He was placed on life support and left to die without so much as a phone call to me from Scott County,” she said. “I wasn’t informed until late Thursday evening when they let the inmates off lockdown, and one of my relatives called home saying my son had died at the jail. So I contacted Scott County Jail, and she told me it was against their procedure to contact anyone.”

Dennis confirmed the jail’s policy is not to notify next-of-kin in the event of a medical emergency.

Ellis said she only found out about his life-threatening condition through back channels, and when she contacted the jail to ask about her son’s condition, jail staff told her Blackmon had been taken to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, which was incorrect. Blackmon had been taken to Saint Francis Medical Center.

“When we went in that room, and I seen my child on life support with all those tubes in him ... I began touching my baby and crying out, praying to God ... They thought I was crazy when I told them they were going to witness a miracle with my son,” she added. “But God! My son is recovering well considering the trauma. ... The neurologist couldn’t believe it!”

She said he has developed other complications, including pneumonia, memory loss and his speech is different. But he was well enough, she said, to be released from the hospital Tuesday. Wednesday, a warrant was issued for Blackmon’s arrest for failure to obey a judge’s order to return to custody. Ellis said her son had an appointment Thursday and needed continuing care by a neurologist.

Blackmon is in the jail on several charges, including first-degree assault, armed criminal action, unlawful use of a weapon and property damage.

He was certified as an adult upon his original charges and has been in the jail since Nov. 30, 2017, when he was 16 years old. In July of last year, while in custody, Blackmon was indicted by a grand jury with alleged attempted rape, attempted sodomy and first-degree assault, crimes Dennis said occurred in the jail and perpetrated on a fellow inmate.

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