Mom gets $2M for jail death of intellectually disabled son

DENVER (AP) — When Tomas Beauford was arrested after getting into a fight at a group home for intellectually disabled people in 2014, a device he wore around his wrist to help regulate his seizures was confiscated as if it were jewelry when he got to jail, according to a lawsuit filed by his mother. When he refused to take an array of medications there for his epilepsy and mental illness, he was allowed to skip them even though he had the mental capacity of a 5-year-old, the lawsuit said.

Nearly a decade after Beauford was found dead in his cell after allegedly suffering multiple seizures behind bars, lawyers for Tiffany Marsh announced Monday that she won a $2 million settlement with Mesa County and the health care company which the county had hired to provide medical care for people housed at its jail.

Her lawsuit alleged that jail workers did not provide Beauford medical attention after witnessing his seizures during a six-week stay in jail. He was found dead on April 16, 2014, his body on the ground and his head wedged inside the bottom shelf of a desk in his cell, after deputies had witnessed him having seizures in the hours before, according to Marsh’s lawsuit.

“It’s just like they gave up on my kid completely,” said Marsh, who had urged jail staff to try offering her son Sprite or root beer to coax him take his medications, as she had.

One of her lawyers, David Lane, said Beauford, who had an IQ of 52, should never have been put in jail in the first place. He said police should have just diffused the situation at the group home and then allowed staffers to handle things.

“Once the machine gets turned on, stopping the machine is almost impossible,” he said, referring to the criminal justice system.

Under the settlement, no one was disciplined for Beauford’s death, Lane said. The county did not admit any wrongdoing but did agree to place a plaque with Beauford’s photo on it in the lobby of the jail so those who work there will see it every day. The county has also promised to provide annual trainings on inmates who refuse to take medication, intellectually disabled inmates and recognizing and treating seizures.

The current Mesa County sheriff, Todd Rowell, also wrote a letter of apology to Marsh as part of the deal.

“We take our responsibilities seriously and while it may be difficult to find any positive from the loss of a loved one, please know we have examined and will continue to look for ways to improve ourselves, our policies and procedures to make sure that all life is respected and cared for to the best of our ability,” he wrote.

Mesa County agreed to pay $1.6 million under the settlement and Correctional Health Care Companies, Inc., which is now part of Wellpath, paid $400,000.

The county referred questions to the sheriff’s office. Spokesperson Wendy Likes said the office regretted the loss of Beauford’s life but said that it does not comment on litigation.

Wellpath did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the settlement.