Last Updated: 4:53 p.m.
Sean E. Barry, a 33-year-old resident of Butternut Avenue in Bunnell’s Mondex, or Daytona North, died at AdventHealth Palm Coast on Thursday afternoon, five days after he was found hanging in an apparent suicide attempt at the Flagler County jail.
His hospital vitals, photographed by his sister on Monday, stated he was being treated for “heart arrest,” a “lung infection”, a “brain disorder” (he had no brain activity when he reached the hospital) and “Hanging, undetermined whether accidentally or purposefully inflicted.” Barry was in a jail cell by himself.
Medical staff at the Intensive Care Unit at AdventHealth South called Danielle Brown, Barry’s 37-year-old sister, to inform her of his death. Brown, a single mother who lives in Ormond Beach–and whose 12-year-old daughter was attached to her uncle–had been with her brother numerous times during his five days in ICU, but was not there at the very moment when he was taken off life support.
“He has never been suicidal,” Brown said. “I work for hospice, and I would try to talk to him and get him to express himself. We would talk, and it was never depression. It was just that he doesn’t want to live this way anymore, doing drugs and stuff. He wants to do better, because he knows that he’s got my daughter, his niece, and then he’s got another niece and nephew in Connecticut that look up to him. He just never never once had those thoughts.”
His girlfriend of six months, Kazmiera Szulc, had visited with him by video through a phone app the afternoon before, in a 13-minute conversation at 1:45 p.m. on Sept. 15. he looked fine, she said, complaining of a hurt back and of how cold it was in the jail. He’d hurt his back helping her father with a bobcat tire two days before he’d gone to the jail. “He was telling us how he missed us and how he loved us and how he can’t wait to come home and see us, and he was acting just fine,” Szulc said.
Brown has no information about what took place at the jail other than “mixed stories” heard from deputies guarding Barry and determinations from physicians that to her don’t add up. She said she got two different accounts from two different deputies of what happened.
In one account, Barry had made a request for medicine to a corrections deputy, who then was absent 13 minutes to get a nurse. When the deputy returned, Barry was hanging from a noose he’d made of a bedsheet. A different deputy told her that Barry was in a cell next to cells that were on 30minute watches, and that when the corrections deputy making those rounds passed by Barry’s cell, he saw him hanging.
“Then he said he immediately walked by and got in there and cut him down and they tried to perform CPR for 15 minutes, and he still had no pulse or heartbeat,” Brown said, referring to what a deputy had told her. “Then EMS got there and then they put oxygen on him and then that wasn’t working so they had to intubate him. But the hospital’s paperwork says he was down for 30 minutes before being evaluated and then CPR was performed.”
The sheriff’s office’s incident report on the case puts it this way: At 3:33 a.m. the morning of Sept. 16, corrections deputy Michael Bolling was escorting a nurse to the cell to evaluate Barry, who was the sole occupant of the cell. “I saw Inmate Barry Suspended by his neck from a sheet that he had lied around the top bunk,” the report states.
The deputy alerted other deputies and medical staff. “I untangled the sheet from around Inmate Barry’s neck. As I did, Inmate Barry was unresponsive and was brought to the floor of cell 0-3 on his back,” the report states. “I detected no vital signs present, attempted a sternum rub and instructed the Nurse to start CPR.” Paramedics were called in. An AED defibrillator was applied. A deputy brought an oxygen tank, all the while as CPR continued, with deputies and the nurse relieving each other in turns. Paramedics then took over care, and placed Barry on a stretcher “once a pulse was acquired.”
The Code White, the term used at the jail in such situations, was cleared at 3:56 a.m. as Barry was transported to the hospital.
Brown said the written report has some inconsistencies with what she was told by deputies (for instance, a deputy told her he’d cut the sheet and Barry’s tangled shirt), and includes neither the incidence of the heart attack nor the intubation, though typically jail documents focus on jail staff, while EMS documents detail their medical intervention. In this case, the two intersected, with jail medical staff involved.
“This should be a full report, not just a brief summary,” she said. “That’s exactly what they told me,” she said of medical staff at the hospital, “did that heart attack happen here, and they said no, it happened at the jail.” She was also critical of the absence of a more detailed timeline.
Physicians’ notes on Barry’s case after a Sept. 16 imagining of his brain stated that “prognosis is guarded to poor for meaningful neurological recovery,” and that “His best neurological outcome may require a trach, peg and 24/7 skilled nursing care at a long-term acute care facility,” with the expectation of blindness and paralysis.
“My brother was healthy. Besides, he didn’t smoke cigarettes or whatever. He was healthy. He didn’t have any medical conditions whatsoever,” his sister said.
Chief Daniel Engert, who heads the Sheriff’s Office’s Detention Services Division, issued the following statement this afternoon: “The loss of life is very tragic. In this incident, Mr. Barry’s decision to harm himself is truly heartbreaking. The jail’s medical and detention staff as well as Flagler County EMS were able to give him a fighting chance before he left the facility. An investigation will be completed to confirm that all procedures were properly followed.”
Barry’s initial encounter with local police was in August 2022. A Bunnell police officer had pulled Barry over on North State Street. Barry was driving on a suspended license. He was also in possession of less than a gram of heroin. Last October 10 he pleaded to two misdemeanors, was sentenced to one day in jail, which he had already served, and to a year on probation. He was required to have a substance abuse evaluation and seek treatment as part of his probation.
He violated his probation around Thanksgiving, when deputies and paramedics were called to the Butternut Avenue address on a possibility of an overdose, according to his arrest report. It was not an overdose, but Barry told a deputy he had used heroin, and was again booked at the jail for the probation violation.
Jo Ann Coleman, his probation officer, filed a violation report and recommended that Barry be screened for the jail’s Smart program (Successful Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Treatment). On Dec. 19, his probation was revoked and he was sentenced to 120 days in jail, with 44 days’ credit. He did not join the Smart program, his sister said. His intention was to serve the 120 days as a way to clear himself out from probation, as some individuals under court supervision prefer to do (probation can be difficult to comply with).
The court had also ordered what’s referred to as a TASC evaluation (or Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities), which would evaluate Barry for treatment and have him released to treatment options, if and when available. He served his time and was released.
Barry had struggled with addiction for a decade and a half, his sister said, in part due to a poor role model in his father (the siblings have different fathers). He’d grown up in Connecticut. His sister moved to this area four years ago, he did so a year and a half ago, working on landscaping and odd jobs, but keeping busy with work and staying close to his family.
“He was always there for me,” Browen said. “If I ever was struggling or needed help because I’m a single mom, he always had my back. He made sure I had everything I needed, my daughter had what she wanted or needed. He went out of his way to just be there for anybody. That’s just who he was. Any person you speak to will tell you that he was such a great person, and he’d go out of his way for anybody.”
But he was among the nearly 20 million Americans struggling with a substance use disorder, 38 percent of them struggling with drugs.
“He’s been doing this for the last 15 years,” Brown said, “so that’s why when I heard about this Marchman Act, because we don’t have that in Connecticut, that’s why when I heard about it, this will definitely help him. He was willing to go. We talked about it all. We were angry with each other, we talked about it even after we went to court the first day.”
So Barry’s last stint at the jail had nothing to do with his previous arrest or probation violation, for which he had served his time, or even with any sort of crime, but with the Marchman Act motion his sister had filed with the court in early August as she sought to get him the treatment help he needed.
“I was trying to get him help, because he wouldn’t go into a program by himself,” Brown said. “That’s why being as close as I am to him, I filed that Marchman Act,” which entailed his involuntary commitment for treatment. (The TASC evaluation had also required him to complete outpatient and in-patient treatment.)
“He did comply with the outpatient for those four weeks. But once it came time for him to go to SMA,” the inpatient component of the program, at a DeLand facility, Brown said, “he just didn’t comply because he had drugs in his system, so he didn’t think they would take him. That’s when the deputies called me and said that they would have issued the warrant and they were trying to find him so they can serve him.” Deputies served him with what’s called an order to show cause.
Brown said she turned in her brother on Tuesday, Sept. 12 (his booking is recorded as Sept. 13 a little after noon). He was to be at the jail until the opening of a treatment bed for him. They’d spent the evening together the night before.
“When I dropped him off,” Brown said, “he gave me a big hug. And it’s like, I love you, Danielle, and I’ll call you in a couple of days. And you know, the next couple of days is the phone call from the ICU.” No one from the jail or the Sheriff’s Office contacted her, she said, either when he was taken to the hospital, or after he died.
“The only time that I spoke to them was to get approval to be able to go see my brother because apparently since he was in their custody, I wasn’t allowed to go see him. Nobody was,” Brown said. “So I had to get approval from the corporal. He approved it, and then when my sister flew down from Connecticut, I had to do the same thing.” Though comatose, regulation required Barry to have a deputy in the room at all times.
Barry was taken off life support Wednesday at 8 a.m., in his sister’s presence. She’d been there throughout. He held on, and held on. Barry died at 2:19 p.m. Thursday. At that moment, Brown was at the courthouse, trying to get the Marchman Act order lifted so Barry wouldn’t have to be in jail custody–so a deputy wouldn’t have to be in his hospital room. That effort became moot.
The jail recorded Barry’s “release” time as Sept. 21, at 3:49 p.m., about an hour and a half after his death.
“It’s extremely important, the fact that not one sheriff has contacted me at all to explain what has occurred,” Brown said. She got the first phone call from an ICU physician six hours after Barry had been brought into the hospital.
Barry’s body has been transferred to the medical examiner’s office in St. Augustine for an autopsy.
Engert, the corrections division chief, said in his statement today: “Medical and mental health treatment in addition to several programs are offered to assist individuals who struggle with substance abuse and addiction while they are at the Sheriff Perry Hall Detention Facility. There are many successful stories of former inmates who took advantage of the opportunity to be treated and get help with these programs. The Jail team continues to utilize best practices and has achieved accreditation status from the Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission.”
In 2019, Anthony Fennick, 23, at the jail on a drug-probation violation, got progressively sicker for days before he was transported to AdventHealth, where he became comatose and was taken off life support days later. The incident led the sheriff to fire its medical provider at the time and replace it.