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Report: Idaho jail staff left inmate alone before his death

May 15, 2019 GMT

BURLEY, Idaho (AP) — Investigators say an inmate at an Idaho jail died after being left alone for three hours while suffering the effects of a drug overdose — far longer than the 15-minute interval checks required under jail policy.

Thomas Rettew, 38, died of the overdose on Jan. 17 while in a holding cell at the Mini-Cassia Criminal Justice Center.

The Times-News in Twin Falls reported Wednesday that it obtained the sheriff’s investigators’ redacted report through a public records request.


A grand jury in Twin Falls County considered the case in February. Twin Falls sheriff’s office spokeswoman Lori Stewart says no charges will be filed in connection with Rettew’s death.

The report says Rettew, of Rupert, complained about not feeling well when he arrived at the jail. Over the next few hours he had convulsions and began vomiting. Jail staffers who checked on him 95 minutes after his arrival were told he was detoxing from illegal drugs, according to the report.

Jail policy says detoxing inmates should be checked every 15 minutes, but the report says detention center staff members were also dealing with an inmate who attempted to kill himself.

The staffers didn’t return to Rettew’s holding cell for three hours after their first visit, and then only after his cellmate pounded on the door calling for help, the report states.

Rettew had been arrested earlier that day on an outstanding warrant involving probation on a charge of possession of a controlled substance.

The report says the inmate in the holding cell with Rettew told authorities Rettew claimed to have swallowed black tar heroin and methamphetamine, and that he’d put heroin in his rectum just before his arrest.

Rettew didn’t tell officers he had ingested any substances, according to the report.

When Rettew became unresponsive, the inmate pounded on the cell door for help. Rettew was taken to Cassia Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

During an autopsy in Boise, a small plastic baggie was removed from Rettew’s stomach, the report stated. Toxicology reports showed Rettew had drugs including methamphetamine in his blood.

County Prosecutor Doug Abenroth did not respond to a request for information from The Times-News on whether any staffers were disciplined or given further training after Rettew’s death.

Sheriff Jay Heward said the matter isn’t resolved but declined to comment further.


Information from: The Times-News, http://www.magicvalley.com