Inmate said to decline help Report by Howard jail on man who died is contradicted by others


Howard County's jail director said yesterday that the inmate who was found dead in his cell last week after an apparent asthmatic attack had asthma inhalers in his cell during his 42 hours in jail and refused additional medication the day before he died.

"I am confident that the policies and procedures of the detention center were followed," said Melanie C. Pereira, director of the facility, of the death June 7 of Parrish Michael Spinoso, 22, of Ellicott City. "Operationally, we did what we were supposed to do."

Spinoso's mother attacked the report, saying it was an attempt "to cover up" the jail's negligence.

"When I make a mistake, I own up to it," said Carol Spinoso. She said her only son had suffered from asthma since he was a toddler. "Parrish is 22 years old. Why would he not take something to assist his breathing?"

"It just doesn't make sense," she said, before breaking into sobs.

A report made public yesterday makes no mention of the inmate complaining of asthma symptoms during his time in jail, though he was seen by a nurse four times for problems associated with heroin withdrawal.

The report says he was allowed to keep an inhaler with him at all times.

Pereira said that twice on the day before he died, Spinoso refused two asthma medications he said he was supposed to take twice daily.

A fourth medication Spinoso brought with him was withheld by a nurse pending review by the jail doctor.

Spinoso and her attorney, Marvin Ellin, allege that jail officials failed to give her son access to his asthma medication. Police brought the medications to the jail with Spinoso when he was arrested June 5 on drug charges.

Jail officers found Spinoso -- a daily heroin user, the report says -- dead in his cell at 6: 08 a.m. June 7. Though autopsy results are pending, an official in the state medical examiner's office who refused to be identified said Spinoso died from an acute asthma attack.

Yesterday, Ellin released an affidavit from a man he said was in the cell next to Spinoso's and heard him beg for his asthma medication.

In the sworn statement, Russell W. Shaver Jr., 21 -- who also was arrested on drug charges -- said he heard Spinoso complain to a nurse June 6, a Saturday -- the day after Spinoso's arrest -- that he had difficulty breathing and ask for his asthma medication.

That nurse and another told him he could not have the medicine until the doctor reviewed it Monday, Shaver said.

'Actually begged'

"Throughout the period of time that I was in the cell next to Parrish, he numerous times actually begged for his inhaler and medication," Shaver said.

Shaver was released from the jail at 10: 45 p.m. June 6: "At the time I left, Parrish was still complaining of difficulty breathing and still asking for help."

Shaver did not return calls seeking comment.

According to the report, Spinoso brought four prescribed medications to the jail with him -- Albuterol, Serevent, Flovent and Prednisone. The Prednisone was withheld by the jail because the prescription's fill date was last year, Pereira said. Ellin says the prescription was filled the week of Spinoso's arrest.

Dr. Robert B. Kroopnick, one of Spinoso's physicians, described him as a severe asthmatic who had been hospitalized for his illness. Kroopnick said the medications were vital to keeping his patient alive. Spinoso could have survived on the Albuterol alone, he said.

Kroopnick said Spinoso's asthma could have been exacerbated by the jail setting -- either because of his allergies, which included dust, or the anxiety of being behind bars.

"He needs to take his medication daily," Kroopnick said.

According to the jail report, Spinoso went to the jail's medical section about an hour after he arrived June 5. The nurse reviewed the medications and asked him what dosages he required. Spinoso was given the Albuterol inhaler to take to his cell. The Flovent and Serevent medications -- which are also administered by an inhaler -- were put in the nurse's cart to be dispensed in the morning and evening. The Prednisone -- a steroid taken in pill form -- was withheld pending review by the jail doctor.

The first night, Spinoso began vomiting. Jail officers recommended he see the nurse the next morning, which he did at 9: 45 a.m. Then, after a visit from his mother, the report says, Spinoso experienced more apparent withdrawal symptoms, was returned to the nurse at 10: 40 a.m. and later given medication.

The report says Spinoso took the withdrawal medication twice June 6. The report makes no mention of his refusal to take the asthma medication, but Pereira, in an interview, said that was the case.

'An individual right'

"A person has an individual right to take medication or not take medication," she said.

When officials discovered Spinoso dead in his cell, they found the two Albuterol inhalers next to his body. One was full, the other was half-full, according to the report.

The report says jail officers last saw Spinoso alive at 9 p.m. June 6 and, during routine hourly checks throughout the night, never heard or saw "anything to indicate that inmate Spinoso was in distress, had been sick or needed medical attention."

Inmates provided differing accounts, the report says; some said they heard Spinoso vomiting during the night before he was found dead. None of the officers saw that, nor did the inmates inform them, the report says.

Howard County police are investigating, and Pereira said the jail is cooperating fully. The jail also has requested a review by its medical provider, EMSA, of Spinoso's medical treatment and of all medical protocols.

Pub Date: 6/17/98

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