by Jerri Goodman
The family of a Candler County Jail inmate who hanged herself in the jail two years ago has filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Homer Bell and his office assistant, Robbie Youngblood.
Kimberly Nicole Clements, 30, died Friday, July 22, 2011, while in custody in Candler County Jail. Her death was ruled a suicide by hanging following an autopsy by the medical examiner at the GBI Crime Lab according to Coroner Sonny Morgan.
Clements had hung herself on a shower curtain rod inside the holding cell, according to the lawsuit, which also states that her body was discovered by two inmate trustees. The window that allowed individuals to view inside the holding cell, which was located across from the booking counter, had reportedly been covered by a sheet. By the time her body was discovered, according to the lawsuit, she had been dead for some time.
Clements had been brought in the night before on charges of theft by taking and criminal damage to property and not yet been officially booked at the time of her death.
The federal lawsuit was filed last month in the Southern District Court, Statesboro Division, by Robert Timothy Clements, Clements’ husband, and their two minor children.
In the lawsuit, Clements’ family alleges that Clements had told another inmate that if she did not get out the next day she was going to kill herself and reportedly said this within earshot of other inmates several times.
Clements, who was on probation at the time of her arrest, also allegedly informed her probation officer, Lisa Newham, that she was going to kill herself, prompting Newham to report the threat to the sheriff.
According to the lawsuit, when Bell was informed of the threat, within the hearing of Youngblood, his response was “Let the (profanity) kill herself,” a remark Bell acknowledged to the GBI that he made when that agency was called in to investigate.
The family states that Bell failed to follow the policies and procedures of the jail, requiring inmates who pose threat of self-harm to be placed in isolation and that a jail officer conduct in-person direct supervision of that inmate at intervals of at least every 15 minutes. The policies also require, according to the lawsuit, that the inmate wear a suicide smock and be prohibited from accessing items which can be used to commit suicide.
The lawsuit contends that Bell did not order the suicide watch or order Clements to be placed in a suicide smock and did not order the removal of items which could be used to inflict self-harm. Nor did Bell place Clements in an isolation cell or inform anyone else at the jail that Clements had threatened to kill herself, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also contends that Youngblood did not conduct in-person surveillance of Clements or follow other policies regarding an inmate’s threat of suicide.
The lawsuit charges that both Bell and Youngblood were negligent and showed deliberate indifference in the case and violated her rights.
The family, represented by G. Brian Spears and Albert Wan, both of Atlanta, and Wilson Smith of Smith and Jenkins, P.C., in Vidalia, request damages against Bell and Youngblood in an amount “appropriate to compensate for the full value of the life of Clements ...” and punitive damages against Bell.
When questioned about the lawsuit, Bell reported, “I have no comments,” advising the newspaper to contact County Attorney Kendall Gross.
Gross could offer no comment on the case, citing the federal ruling that cases pending the Southern District cannot be commented on by attorneys.
“Insurance defense counsel has been assigned,” Gross said, adding that Bell and Youngblood are being represented by Terry Readdick of the firm Brown, Readdick, Bumgartner, Carter, Strickland & Watkins, LLP, of Brunswick.