Suicide attempts happen rarely at the Flagler County jail. The last one that was publicly reported took place in 2018, when inmates intervened to stop a 37-year-old fellow-inmate from hanging himself with a bedsheet. On Dec. 8 and 9, in the span of 24 hours, detention deputies–and an inmate in the first case–intervened and halted the attempted suicides of two inmates, a man and a woman, in unrelated incidents. Each had a harrowing back-story, suggesting that the individuals’ attempts may not be their last.
In one case, the inmate’s mother had previously warned the court in Volusia County that her son was extremely unstable, had threatened “suicide by cop” and was in grave need of treatment, otherwise “Letting him out before he receives the help he needs would be like signing somebody’s death sentence.”
That inmate is Jeshua “Josh” Rivera, a 37-year-old resident of Flagler Beach and Daytona Beach. He’s had a history of drug abuse, criminal conduct and mental health issues. “I live at the expenses of my grandmother, as she is trying to help me with my ups and downs of my disability and mental health,” he had written a judge in Volusia County last year, when he was trying to keep his driver’s license from being revoked because of unpaid court fees from previous cases. He had just completed a nearly three-year sentence in state prison on drug charges and escape.
“He has done some unspeakable things that really concern my mother and I concerning his mental health,” Rivera’s mother had previously written the court. “He is not well. He needs in-patient rehabilitation as well as mental health. We are worried he will get out and go back to the same lifestyle of drug use and doing things that are just not healthy or sane. In fact, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt he would return to that lifestyle. Nothing has worked, probation, drug testing, dependency classes, etc. We are concerned about his safety and ours.”
His mother was worried that he would harm himself or others if he were released. She described him as a good-hearted man who’d lost his way with drugs, who was “depressive with suicidal thoughts,” and was self-destructive in other ways. “He becomes aggressive and violent and my mother and I constantly live in fear for him and ourselves.”
In May, he was re-arrested following an incident in Flagler Beach. He was accused of stealing a credit card and transferring money. His case has been moving toward trial in court. He faces charges of burglary, grand theft and the fraudulent use of credit cards. He was due in court with his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Bill Bookhammer, for docket sounding, the last step before trial, on Dec. 9.
Just before noon on Dec. 8, an inmate next to Rivera’s cell alerted corrections deputies through the intercom that something was wrong with Rivera. David Robles, a corrections deputy, found Rivera in cell F-1 “hanging from the vent with a torn sheet wrapped around his neck,” according to an incident report. His face had reddened, he was trembling, and showing other signs of a person in agony. Deputy Mark Remish cut the sheet and with Robles seated Rivera on the floor until medical personnel arrived. He was then placed in wrist restraints to prevent further self harm and relocated to an observation cell.
In July, as part of Rivera’s ongoing case, a friend of his was deposed and revealed that one of Rivera’s closest friend and roommate had recently taken her own life.
Almost exactly 24 hours after the incident involving Rivera, corrections deputies were again faced with a suicide attempt.
Beverly Leblanc is a 59-year-old resident of Palm Coast. She’d scammed two Flagler County widowers while she was on probation from another county. In one case, the victim was an 77-year-old man who’d allowed Leblanc to move into his home and rent a room, though he’d asked her to leave months later because she hadn’t paid rent. The man was also in the early stages of dementia. He discovered a $901 charge on his credit card from the Microtel, among other fraudulent charges.
In another case, she had stolen an 87-year-old man’s identity and credit card, using both to pass a credit check, pay for the $339 cost of the reinstatement of a driver’s license and other charges. She also tried to buy an RV in his name. She had previously convinced him that she’d been thrown out of her residence, so he’d offered her to live at his house in exchange of $500 a month.
In Marion County last year, she’d written worthless checks and committed battery on a paramedic, been arrested, pleaded, and placed on probation, which she violated. She also pleaded no contest to the combined four felony fraud charges stemming from her scams in Flagler County, which added up to a maximum potential of 40 years in prison. Her sentencing scoresheets placed her at a minimum of five years and nine months.
When she appeared before Circuit Judge Terence Perkins for sentencing last week, the state argued for 10 years in prison. “The defendant has a prior history of defrauding older men and stealing,” Assistant State Attorney Tara Libby argued to the court. Her continued actions put the public, specifically older men who live alone,” at risk.
Perkins in a morning hearing sentenced her to three years, with 291 days’ credit for time served.
Leblanc was driven back to the jail in a van, with other inmates aboard. Cpl. Brian Sheridan, who had driven the van, had parked in the jail’s sally port and opened the back door to allow the inmates out. He then saw Leblanc “lying on the floor in the left compartment with a seatbelt she wrapped tightly around her neck,” an indication that Leblanc had tried to take her own life while other inmates aboard had done nothing to alert Sheridan as he drove.
“Seeing this I immediately called a Code White sally port and entered the rear compartment to unwrap the seatbelt from around her neck,” Sheridan reported. “I then checked for breathing and began to assist Inmate Beverly out of the van.” She was taken to AdventHealth Palm Coast, where she continued to attempt self-harm and had to be restrained for a time. “After several hours, medication, and good behavior Inmate Leblanc was removed from the ER restraints and given lunch,” Sheridan’s report states–only for her to turn white from the appearance of choking. Sheridan administered the Heimlich maneuver, inducing vomiting and restoring Leblanc to normalcy.
“Had it not been for the actions of the other inmate, CCTV Operator, Detention Deputies, and jail medical staff both of these situations could have had a different outcome,” said Sheriff Rick Staly. “This is exactly why our Detention team has to be ready and prepared to handle any type of an emergency. I commend all of those who were instrumental in saving the lives of these two inmates that were in
crisis and the inmate that helped save a fellow inmate’s life by ‘seeing something and saying something’.”