A few days before she was scheduled to request a medical release, a 24-year-old inmate of the Harford County Detention Center died after complaining of difficulty breathing, according to county officials.
Niecey Deneen Aldridge of Aberdeen was pronounced dead at 12:53 a.m. yesterday at Fallston General Hospital after being taken there from the jail in an ambulance, said Deputy 1st Class DeWayne Curry, county sheriff's department spokesman.
For several days before her death, Ms. Aldridge, who had a history of severe asthma, had complained to friends and to detention center authorities that she couldn't breathe well and suffered from chest pains, her boyfriend, Leon Boddy of the 500 block of Oak St. in Aberdeen, said.
Ms. Aldridge, of the 100 block of Hamilton Place, who also used the name Audrena Allen, had a 5-year-old daughter and an 11-month-old son. She had been serving a 90-day sentence on theft and traffic charges since July 6, Deputy Curry said. A hearing had been scheduled for this week in Harford County Circuit Court at which she planned to request a medical release, said her attorney, Saundra Warner, a Harford County assistant public defender.
"I had put in to get her medical records when I got the case but hadn't received them," said Ms. Warner, who began representing Ms. Aldridge last week. "We were going to ask for her to be released because of her medical condition."
About a week ago, Ms. Aldridge began calling Mr. Boddy to complain that her asthma attacks were getting worse, according to Mr. Boddy. The heat exacerbated her illness, he said.
"She told me early last week she had an [asthma] attack late at night," he said. On that occasion, he said, Ms. Aldridge reported being taken to the medical ward and given oxygen.
Mr. Boddy also said Ms. Aldridge told him that detention center officials had told her she was pregnant and subsequently had changed the asthma medications she received.
On Friday, Ms. Aldridge called Mr. Boddy at least twice complaining that she couldn't breathe and asking him to call the judge who sentenced her or her attorney, he said.
The last thing she said to him late Friday afternoon was, "I'm going to lie down for while because my chest hurts," said Mr. Boddy, who didn't speak to her again. He had planned to visit her yesterday, he said.
Mr. Boddy said he called both the attorney and the detention center on Friday afternoon to inform them of Ms. Aldridge's concerns.
Ms. Warner said she called the detention center Friday afternoon to ask that Ms. Aldridge's doctor be alerted of her condition.
"Mr. Boddy had told me that Ms. Aldridge was asking for oxygen. I didn't have direct contact with my client. I called the medical department there, and the nurse there indicated that she had a call in to the doctor, and it seemed like she was acting in the right manner," said Ms. Warner.
A call to Ms. Aldridge's doctor was placed by the nurse on duty Friday afternoon, but no further information about that phone call was available yesterday, Deputy Curry said. Additional information about Ms. Aldridge's medical treatment at the detention center was not available for release, said Deputy Curry, adding that yesterday he was not able to reach all of the nurses who were on duty Friday evening.
Saturday at 11:40 p.m., detention center officials were told an inmate in the women's dormitory was having trouble breathing, Deputy Curry said.
Ms. Aldridge was taken to the detention center medical ward where the nurse called an ambulance at 11:50 p.m., according to the communications center for Harford County's Department of Emergency Operations. An ambulance from the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Department reached the detention center at 11:57 p.m.
Before the ambulance arrived, Ms. Aldridge became unconscious, and detention center personnel attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation. A little less than an hour later, she was declared dead at the hospital. The body was taken to the state medical examiner's office for an autopsy. The county sheriff's office is investigating the death.