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Pinellas jail inmate is 2nd to die in a month

Published Oct. 2, 2005

A 31-year-old St. Petersburg man died last week after suffering a seizure in the Pinellas County Jail. He was the second inmate to die in less than a month, and the fifth to die this year.

Timothy Allen Fuqua, jailed Sept. 1 on a misdemeanor arrest warrant, suffered a seizure in the jail's medical wing the next day, said Pinellas County sheriff's spokesman Greg Tita. Fuqua was taken to Columbia Northside Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where he died Sept. 9.

Fuqua was brain dead when he arrived at the hospital, said his widow, Wanda Lynn Fuqua, 46.

"All I know is this," she said. "They found him on the floor of his cell, and he was dead, brain dead anyway. That is all I know."

"They had him hooked up on life support," Fuqua said. "The doctor said there was no way . . . he was ever going to come out of it."

"What's the sense of his body functioning if his brain is not there anymore," Fuqua said, fighting tears. "He's dead."

Fuqua's death occurred as the Medical Examiner's Office is investigating the death of 20-year-old Joel Quilty, who died Aug. 23 in the jail's medical wing.

Quilty, who was mildly retarded, also suffered a seizure. Officials said he had a history of mental illness and refused to take seizure-control medication.

In other cases this year, one inmate died of heart problems; one hanged himself; and another, reports showed, had extensive cancer.

Medical care at the Pinellas County Jail has been in question.

The jail this year ended ties with EMSA Correctional Care, a medical provider accused of providing inadequate care to inmate Melony Bird. EMSA had one more year left on its contract.

Bird, 24, died last year after jail medical officials waited 13 hours to call 911 after she collapsed in her cell from a possible heart attack. Investigators found that some employees were pressured not to call 911 because sending someone to the emergency room would cost EMSA money.

Public Defender Robert Dillinger, whose office represented both Quilty and Fuqua, said he will seek more information about Fuqua's death.

Dillinger found out about the Sept. 9 death Monday, during a speech by Sheriff Everett Rice to fellow Pinellas County Republicans.

Rice said that some deaths at the jail had been preventable, Dillinger said. But Rice said any errors were caused by the jail's medical provider, not by sheriff's deputies or by administrators.

"It bothers me," Dillinger said of his lack of information about the death. "I want to see the history, and I want to get the jail records."

Fuqua was arrested Sept. 1 on a warrant from the St. Petersburg Police Department, officials said. He had failed to appear in court to face misdemeanor domestic violence charges. After a screening by jail officials, he was placed in the jail's medical wing, said Tita, the sheriff's spokesman.

Fuqua apparently suffered a seizure about 7 p.m., and an inmate yelled to alert authorities, Tita said.

Inmates in Fuqua's pod were asked to return to their cells. When officers arrived, Fuqua was found lying face-down on the floor.

Medical workers called 911, and paramedics took Fuqua to the emergency room within about 10 minutes.

A spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner's Office said Thursday that Fuqua had a history of seizure disorder but that the office's investigation was not complete.

There was no evidence of trauma. Further investigation will include a toxicology study.

"Right now, we don't have anything," the spokeswoman said.