The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is investigating a 27-year-old woman's death after she appeared to have hanged herself while in custody.
Silverdale Detention Center officials found Brandy Ellis dead on Nov. 30 inside the facility, which is managed by private prison operator CoreCivic. All the details surrounding her death are unclear, and sheriff's spokesman Matt Lea directed further questions to the District Attorney's Office, which could not be reached for comment early Wednesday evening.
Attorney Stuart Brown, who represented Ellis on burglary charges from August 2017, said county officials told him his client had hung herself. Brown said Ellis had a history of mental health issues, cycling in and out of Moccasin Bend Health Center as she dealt with multiple criminal charges.
Ellis agreed to plead guilty to stealing a stranger's purse from their car during a hearing earlier this year, Brown said. But Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole held off on accepting her sentence of three years' probation sentence when Ellis didn't seem to fully grasp what was happening.
After that, Ellis missed a court date, causing Poole to issue a warrant for her arrest, Brown said. Because she had other cases pending, court records show, Ellis' bond was revoked and she was transferred to Silverdale, which mostly holds pretrial females since the county jail isn't equipped to do so.
That's partially how the courts discovered Ellis had died: She was supposed to appear in court Wednesday, but records didn't show her in custody, and personnel knew she should've been, since her bond was revoked.
There's been at least one other reported inmate death this year: In October, deputies at the Hamilton County Jail found 54-year-old Carl Bray III unresponsive in a cell after he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.
Two of Ellis' family members could not be reached for comment Wednesday at phone numbers listed in court documents, and The Times Free Press could not locate any obituaries for further details about her life.
From here, sheriff's deputies will investigate her death, likely interviewing any Silverdale officials and inmates about Ellis' medical condition while in custody. These types of investigations do not typically result in criminal charges but families sometimes file civil wrongful death claims.
Inmates, attorneys and family members regularly complain that Silverdale administers medicine at irregular intervals, rejects people's prescriptions when family members bring them to the facility, is slow to transport people with serious medical problems to area hospitals for further treatment, and holds inmates past their scheduled release dates due to paperwork problems.