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Mother of Inmate Who Died After Illness at Flagler Jail Says Autopsy Vindicates Her Claims He Was Neglected

| August 13, 2019

The memorial shrine Anthony Fennick's friends and family set up at his memorial on the beach on Feb. 14. (© FlaglerLive)

The memorial shrine Anthony Fennick’s friends and family set up at his memorial on the beach on Feb. 14. (© FlaglerLive)

Anthony Fennick’s mother says the autopsy report on her son’s untimely death in hospital after a brief illness that rapidly degraded his health while he was at the Flagler County jail in February vindicates what she has believed all along: that an allergic reaction to an antibiotic and the jail health provider’s negligence and ridicule of Fennick’s condition, day after day, led to his stroke, his coma and eventually, his death. 

“People need to realize that if it was not because of that medication, the neglect and ignoring him and ridiculing him for five days, he wouldn’t have had that,” Erika Williams said of her son, who died at 23 on Feb. 8 at AdventHealth Palm Coast, after a four-day coma. By then he had lost all brain functions, and had been kept alive a few extra days only to allow family to arrive from out of town. “He didn’t have a stroke out of nowhere. It was caused by their action. It was caused by their neglect, it was caused by them treating him like less than a freakin’ animal. That’s why he got that. He didn’t get it on his own. He didn’t get it on his own.” 

Fennick had been in drug court until January when, violating his probation, he was sent to the local jail where he was to serve just over four months. At the beginning of February he was treated for what seemed like a small infection on the neck–Fennick may have mentioned spider bites–with an antibiotic, Bactrim, but quickly deteriorated, speaking to his mother day after day of a worsening fever and becoming disoriented, lethargic and ultimately unresponsive, when he was finally taken to the hospital. He never saw a doctor until then, despite asking for one. 

The Sheriff’s Office contracted with Armor Correctional Health at the time. The company denied any wrong-doing. Sheriff Rick Staly fired Armor two weeks after Fennick’s death and hired Southern Correctional Medicine three months later (Armor remained on the job until May), meanwhile conducting a criminal investigation, which has been ongoing but slow-paced because of the pending medical examiner’s report. 

That report was completed on July 31 and submitted to the State Attorney’s Office, according to the News-Journal’s Matt Bruce, who obtained a copy and was first to report on its substance. 

Sheriff’s Office investigators and the medical examiner met today to go over the nine-page report, the Sheriff’s Chief Mark Strobridge said. 

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“We received the medical examiner’s report,” he said, “our investigators are reviewing it with the medical examiner so they have a full understanding as part of their criminal investigation.” Once the criminal investigation is completed, the agency will conduct an internal investigation regarding its own procedures during the Fennick matter. 

The report, Strobridge said, “is another step to get closer to the truth in the investigation.” 

The report attributes Fennick’s death to “natural causes,” according to the News-Journal, that cause being “anoxic ischemic encephalopathy” due to “cerebral venous sinus thrombi”–in other words, a stroke caused by blood clots. Strokes among 23 year olds are not common, nor usually associated with a “natural” death.

Fennick had had a seizure at the jail but was conscious when wheeled out and to the hospital, where medical personnel performed a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. As they were doing so, he had the stroke and was lifeless for several minutes, coding for around nine minutes, according to people familiar with the incident. His heart was revived, but he never regained consciousness. Williams, who was made privy to the report, said the spinal tap had “nothing to do with it.” 

“He flatlined with the spinal tap, but by the time he got to the hospital it was already too late, because when he got to the hospital he already had the brain swelling and the fluid on the brain,” Williams said. “If the spinal tap would have shown anything, the medical report would have shown it.”

Part of the derision Anthony Fennick endured in the days of his coma and after he died from whispered assumptions at the jail and elsewhere were claims that he may have again had access to narcotics at the jail. The autopsy shows no trace of illegal drugs, only Benadryl and ativan, the anti-anxiety prescription drug. It shows no trace of any illness, no disease.

Deanna A. Oleske, the forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Feb. 11 and reviewed its substance with authorities, “said the symptoms were part of an allergic reaction to the Bactrim and the Benadryl actually made Fennick prone to becoming even more dehydrated,” according to Bruce’s report. “The doctor said Fennick’s lack of hydration combined with the infection and tobacco usage made him more susceptible to blood clotting. She did not rule out genetics as a potential contributor, saying a ‘familial clotting disorder’ may have played a role.”

Oleske also cited kidney stones, a detail Williams had brought up when authorities queried her about Fennick’s medical history, but Williams said kidney stones could not have had anything to do with it, either–nor, she said, had he been  “hospitalized” for kidney stones a couple of months before his death, as the medical examiner’s report notes, saying he’d merely gone to the emergency room and was prescribed Flomax. “It shouldn’t be relevant at all,” Williams said. 

Williams said she was “happy” with the autopsy report, because it delved deeper than a strict cause of death, seeking to trace back to what she termed as “the causes of the cause of death.” 

“The autopsy report just verified everything that I knew. It just verified and there’s no doubt now that what caused my son’s final cause of death was that medication,” Williams said. 

The next step, she said, should be accountability. Williams ran into the sheriff at a July 4 event–after chasing him and raising her voice to stop him, she claims–, the first time the two had spoken directly since Fennick’s death. She said she accepts his stance on accountability, but “If that’s what you said then, it’s time to show how,” Williams said. “You’re going to make sure you’re going to find something, something, some kind of criminal negligence on these people. I don’t want to hear that it’s just a  civil suit. I don’t want to hear this. I know damn well that if this was any of their children, if any of their children went through this, they would find something, something would work.” 

Fennick had a daughter. She is about to turn 3. Williams and her husband have custody. She was recently enrolled in a play therapy group. “All she does it ask about him,” Williams said. “Every single day Every day.” Her grandmother reassures her, telling her that her father is always present. The girl would get frightened during thunderstorms. Her grandmother would calm her, telling her it’s her father having a roaring coughing fit. When it rains, “he’s watering her flowers to make them pretty.” When it’s sunny, “he’s cleaning up the park.” 

“He’s always here, He’s always in your heart,” the girl’s grandmother tells her. 


11 Responses for “Mother of Inmate Who Died After Illness at Flagler Jail Says Autopsy Vindicates Her Claims He Was Neglected”

  1. Ann says:

    Don’t let it go-

  2. HonkeyDude says:

    Time for FDLE to be called in! The sheriff wants accountability. Let FDLE render a unbiased investigation! The sheriff is accountable/ liable for the wellfare and safety of inmates. The sheriff has a conflict of interest. Let FDLE find out who is accountable for this injustice!

  3. Palm Coast Resident says:

    Bactrim manufacturer, like any drug, asks users to seek medical treatment immediately if they experience the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Shouldn’t that have happened?

  4. LawAbidingCitizen says:

    i feel for the family for their loss. and I do not know how I would be handling this situation if I were in their shoes. but, from the articles, it seems as though the medical staff was trying to help this young man. a jail setting medical office has limited resources. This young man also abused his body with drugs and smoking while not incarcerated, hence being in “Drug Court”. As I said before, I don’t know how I would react, but why point fingers, when this young man, clearly did not take care of himself either. Im sure a multitude of things played a part in his death. the medical staff should not be to blame, it clearly says they saw him a few times and gave him meds to try and help his symptoms. There is not criminal actions that took place. As for the corrections deputies that work there, they are not medical staff. most of the time, these men and women working in that setting ask inmates if they need to see medical staff and the answer is usually “no, because they don’t want to be charged to see the DR”. I know from experience, as I am a former CO.

  5. Jeff says:

    Crime does not pay.

  6. Mary Fusco says:

    @Jeff, you can say that again. Sadly, few believe it.

  7. JF says:

    First of all Jeff people make mistakes in life. This senseless act of irresponsibility is not acceptable. I unfortunately had to stay in the County Jail which I refuse to call the green roof in. The Deputies in their treat you like dirt. We are all human right. I went 7 days without my meds because the lack of resources there. I was so messed up from my lack of meds I didn’t want to get out of bed. Several deputies refused to even feed me because I would not put on what they call a jumper. I hope and pray to god that someone is held responsible for this crap for it has got to stop.

  8. 58piglets says:

    Bactrim almost killed me, disgusting drug!

  9. Trini says:

    @Jeff I hope this is aimed at the people responsible for this young man’s death, commission of a crime should not warrant death or ill treatment especially if someone is sick. I hope you are not one of those “well he shouldnt have broken the law” types because the law does not give you permission to kill someone like this

  10. Couldhappentoyou says:

    Crime does not pay….really….!!!

  11. HAW CREEK GIRL says:

    I agree that crime does not pay and I don’t expect jail/prison to be a spa experience. However, there are basic rights any human–even an incarcerated one–should expect and one of those is competent and conscientious medical care. Any entry level LPN or RN should recognize the signs of an allergic reaction to a antibiotic and that was overlooked in this instance. In fact, it cost this young man his life. That is not acceptable. It’s not just Flagler County that needs to review their policies and procedures for inmate care, it’s a corrections industry wide problem! Prayers for his devastated Mom, I can’t imagine.

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