“She has struggled with her demons for many years,” Mike Yanero, of Huntington, W.Va., wrote in an email to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “But I must say no matter what this young woman did as a crime you don't go to jail and end up dead. Not at the young age of 33. Jamie was a human being. A person. A mother. A daughter. A niece. Her life had value. She was not just a 'number' to be processed at the jail and punished.”
Ms. Gettings was discovered Tuesday hanging in her cell in the jail’s medical housing unit at 2:12 a.m. and pronounced dead 15 minutes later. The county medical examiner’s office Wednesday ruled her death a suicide.
In light of that ruling and an investigation that uncovered no criminality in Ms. Gettings’ death, Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said Wednesday that his agency’s involvement was over.
“The role of the Allegheny County Police in incidents of this nature is to conduct a death investigation to determine if there are any indications of criminality associated with the death,” Superintendent McDonough said.
“In this case, our investigation coincides with the ruling of the Medical Examiner that Ms. Gettings’ death was a suicide by hanging. Ms. Gettings’ cell, located within the Medical Housing Unit, had been checked periodically per jail protocols.”
Superintendent McDonough deferred to Warden Orlando Harper on questions concerning the facility and its protocols.
Ms. Gettings was in jail after being charged with escape for walking away from a residential facility in February where she had been living after being accused of violating her probation in a 2013 criminal case. The violation stemmed from an arrest in January, when Mount Oliver police charged her with resisting arrest and having a crack pipe and empty stamp bags.
In the past few years, Ms. Gettings had pleaded guilty to retail theft, endangering the welfare of children and a drug offense.
“Jamie was indeed a troubled soul,” Mr. Yanero wrote. “I am just curious as to what actually happened.”
Mr. Yanero said he wants to know whether “any lack of care was the issue because perhaps some at the jail felt her life was valued less than you[rs] or mine.”
In an interview Tuesday, Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge David R. Cashman, the head of the Jail Oversight Board, said he was told by the warden that there were no red flags about Ms. Gettings having suicidal tendencies. He said she was by herself in a cell on the medical unit recovering from a recent hospitalization for a knee abscess.
“This is not acceptable. That shouldn’t happen,” Judge Cashman said of Ms. Gettings’ death. He then said, “If she decided that she’s going to do this, so be it. The people went and did their rounds, they checked on the inmates that were in there, and that’s when they found her. It’s not that they were checking to make sure somebody wasn’t going to hang themselves...When you consider that you’ve got 2,200 people in that jail, that’s a lot of people to go look at at any given point in time.”
Mr. Yanero called the judge’s remarks “cavalier” and “callous.”
“In my opinion, if a young lady that has been in and out of jail since January and was isolated in a solitary cell, I would think the powers to be had enough insight and common sense to realize that she just might try to harm herself,” Mr. Yanero wrote. “How pathetic.”
Jonathan D. Silver: email@example.com, 412-263-1962 or on Twitter @jsilverpg.