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Baltimore County sued over 2013 suicide of inmate

Baltimore County Detention Center
Baltimore County Detention Center (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

The parents of a woman who committed suicide at the Baltimore County Detention Center in 2013 are suing the county, alleging jail employees failed to provide her necessary mental health treatment.

In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court, Deborah and Edward Gelin of Owings Mills say their daughter, Ashleigh, hanged herself in her cell "within hours of reporting to a mental health specialist that she was crying, screaming and hearing voices." The Gelins said Ashleigh suffered from bipolar disorder.

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Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for the county, declined to comment because the litigation is pending.

Ashleigh Gelin, 27, was admitted to the jail Nov. 4, 2013, to serve a one-year sentence on a theft-scheme charge, her parents say in the lawsuit. She took her life 10 days later while alone in an unmonitored cell, they say.

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They say Gelin was referred to be seen by psychiatric staff after she arrived at the jail. Under county corrections regulations, she should have been seen by mental health staff within 72 hours but was not, they allege.

When Gelin hanged herself, they say, other inmates in her unit "continuously screamed while banging on the cell walls," but no staffers responded — and "no inmate checks or watch tour rounds occurred within the two hours prior to Ms. Gelin being discovered."

Gelin never received medication to treat her bipolar disorder while incarcerated, her parents say.

They are seeking $15 million in damages.

The lawsuit names county Sheriff Jay Fisher and about a dozen jail employees as defendants. The jail is administered by the county's Department of Corrections.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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