The Journal Gazette
Thursday, October 29, 2020 1:00 am

Jail death in Whitley questioned by family

Dispute coroner's ruling of overdose for mom, 32

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

An attorney for Tia Lynn Meyers, the 32-year-old mother of four found dead at Whitley County Jail on Aug. 29, is questioning the Whitley County coroner's ruling that the woman died of a methamphetamine overdose. 

He's also questioning whether jail staff properly evaluated Meyers.

“We have serious doubts that the reported levels of methamphetamine would have been fatal as reported by the Whitley County coroner. It is highly unlikely that someone would die from a drug overdose almost three days after ingesting drugs. We are retaining a toxicologist to assist us in understanding this issue,” said Stephen Wagner, a Carmel-based attorney representing the family. 

Wagner, who specializes in wrongful death suits and jail and prison deaths, said the family may consider a federal civil rights lawsuit. 

An investigation by Indiana State Police has not been completed, said Sgt. Brian Walker, the public information officer. Whitley County Coroner Randall Dellinger declined comment.

The autopsy subpoenaed by Wagner from Whitley County indicates a toxicity level of .46 nanograms per milliliter of methamphetamine and .69 nanograms per milliliter of amphetamine. Meyers' death was ruled an accidental meth overdose. The autopsy was performed Aug. 30 by Dr. Scott Wagner at the Northeast Indiana Forensic Center and the toxicology report was completed Sept. 24 at NMS Labs in Horsham, Pennsylvania. 

The autopsy report states Meyers was booked into Whitley County Jail at 2:50 p.m. Aug. 26 and spent 64 hours there before she was discovered at 6:57 a.m. Aug. 29 and pronounced dead at 7:05 a.m., rigor mortis having set in. 

The jail nurse had cleared Meyers for incarceration, the autopsy report stated. 

“She was isolated in the cell the whole time,” Wagner said. “She couldn't have taken drugs in the jail. We believe she died from going through horrible withdrawal symptoms and (the jail) failed to monitor her or provide her treatment.” 

Whitley County, like many Hoosier counties including Allen, has contracted with for-profit Quality Correctional Care in Carmel, to provide medical care to inmates, according to Quality Correctional Care's website. The company did not respond to a Facebook message request nor to two phone calls asking for a statement.

Meyers was pulled over for speeding Aug. 26 in Allen County, according to her mother, Tamara Meyers. On Aug. 21, Whitley Superior Court issued a warrant for Meyers' arrest for marijuana possession and paraphernalia possession dating to December.

Phone calls during those 64 hours at the jail to her mother and boyfriend indicate she was ill, Wagner said. 

It's unclear why she was in an isolated cell at the jail. Wagner said Whitley County Jail's capacity is between 150 and 200 inmates.

“It's ridiculous. Anyone who has means could have posted bail and gotten out,” Wagner said. “(If they're) disadvantaged, it's more likely they can't post bail and they're entirely reliant on their jailers to provide medical treatment.”

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