CLAYTON — A Missouri inmate alleges that jailers were slow to help his gravely ill cellmate before he became the fifth inmate at the lockup to die in custody last year.
Ricardo Cueto told a reporter Thursday in an interview at the St. Louis County Justice Center that his cellmate, Jo'von Mitchell, was unable to get to his feet for an entire day before jailers took the 31-year-old to get medical treatment on Dec. 25. He died two days later, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
The deaths of four other inmates at the jail earlier in the year displayed a pattern of jail staffers refusing to treat very sick patients. The deaths prompted a host of reforms and the appointment of a new jail director. Mitchell's death is the first to occur after the changes.
The county did not previously indicate that Mitchell had shown signs of being ill for any length of time before receiving treatment. The county said previously in a statement that Mitchell had been taken to the infirmary after complaining to corrections officers that he had a headache. It said he refused a meal at 5:11 p.m. and was observed as unconscious four minutes later. Clayton EMS arrived at 5:25 p.m. to take him to the hospital.
Cueto said the county's statement omitted details of what he called a "disturbing" lack of urgency to treat his cellmate. Two other inmates wrote letters to the Post-Dispatch with similar claims.
Mitchell's cause of death remains under investigation by the county medical examiner's office.
Doug Moore, a spokesman for County Executive Sam Page, said in a text: "We appreciate the paper bringing this inmate's story to our attention. We hope inmates alert the jail staff immediately when their cellmate is sick or has a headache. Thankfully, in this situation, the inmate received treatment within two minutes of reporting his symptoms to jail staff."
Cueto insisted it took much longer than that. He said several corrections officers and nurses were aware Cueto was ill all day on Dec. 24 — when he felt so bad that he skipped a visit from a Christmas Eve visitor— and into the next morning.
Cueto said Mitchell could not get to his feet for three head counts over a period of several hours.
At one point, Cueto recalled telling his cellmate that he had to stand up for the headcount because it was mandatory. But he said Mitchell told him, "I really can't do it. I can't stand up, bro." But Cueto said Mitchell wasn't taken to the infirmary until the next day.
Cueto has been in custody since June 2016 on charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Mitchell had been in custody since October 2016 on charges including unlawful use of a firearm from a vehicle, armed criminal action, first-degree assault and assault on a law enforcement officer. Cueto said they had been cellmates for 2½ years as they awaited trials.