Family Sues Galveston County Over Son Who Died in Jail After Being Taken Off Meds

Courtesy of Jesse Jacobs Sr.
Courtesy of Jesse Jacobs Sr.
"He was exactly like he was in this picture," Diane Jacobs said, describing her son's personality.

It has been one year since their son, Jesse Jacobs, died following a fatal seizure in the Galveston County Jail, and still, Diane and Jesse Sr. are no closer to understanding how the jail let it happen.

The 32-year-old was only supposed to serve a 30-day sentence — likely 12 on good behavior — for a DWI. He had come into the jail with a month's worth of Xanax and a note from his psychiatrist, Dr. Don LaGrone, saying how imperative it was that Jacobs continue taking it every day. But on his first day in jail, an EMT had ordered that Jacobs be placed on detox protocol, and he was never given the medication he had relied upon for the past decade of his life. He died within a week.

Standing outside the federal courthouse downtown, Jesse Sr. announced that they have filed a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Galveston County Jail to mark the one-year anniversary of Jacobs's death. His wife, Diane, stood next to him clutching a picture of Jacobs and his dog, and wearing his fingerprint, etched into silver jewelry, around her neck. “Our son made a mistake, but had the courage to acknowledge that mistake, plead guilty to the charge and spend 30 days in jail," Jesse Sr. said. "He did not agree to a death sentence — and that is exactly what Sheriff Henry Trochesset and the Galveston County Jail executed on him.”

The Galveston County Medical Examiner found that Jacobs died of a seizure disorder and abrupt discontinuation of his Xanax. But Jacobs's parents say that Trochesset would only tell them Jacobs died of natural causes, denying any responsibility for what happened. After months of asking Trochesset to let them see surveillance footage of their son's last days, it was clear they wouldn't get it unless they filed a lawsuit — so that's exactly what they did. "From the beginning, they have evaded our questions, stalled any meaningful information and denied any accountability for our son's passing," Jesse Sr. said. "Meanwhile, this past year, my wife and I have been forced to continue wondering why our son had to die a senseless and preventable death."

Galveston County Jail medical records reviewed by the Houston Press last August show that Jacobs's death came only after he suffered several seizures and panic attacks. After the first seizure, nurses just gave him some Gatorade and water and a couple of ammonia capsules and sent him on his way. Even when he was found bleeding from the mouth after chomping down on his tongue in another seizure the following morning, he still wasn't taken to see an actual doctor. Finally, after his third seizure, Dr. Theresa Becker, who works for the jail's Soluta Health medical contractor, came to see him and “gave new orders,” according to the records. Finally, he was taken to an actual medical clinic after a fourth seizure; the doctors there only gave him more water, gave him a new anxiety medication (not Xanax) and sent him back to his cell.

According to the family's attorney, U.A. Lewis, she and the family also uncovered new records in recent months that show Jacobs was placed in solitary confinement (though the reasoning is unclear, Lewis said) and had his clothes stripped from him, which is how jail personnel would find him unresponsive on the floor of his cell following the last, fatal seizure. It's a cell without a toilet, sink or shower — “just a drain on the floor,” Lewis said. His mattress was covered in feces when they found him, according to the lawsuit, which notes that diarrhea is a common withdrawal symptom.

Last August, LaGrone told us he was certain that Jacobs died because of the abrupt detox protocol, and that all of the symptoms — especially the seizures — lined up with severe withdrawal.

Jacobs's parents have also filed complaints with the Texas Medical Board against the two doctors involved in their son's case. After the EMT placed Jacobs on detox protocol, a psychiatrist named Dr. Harry Faust approved that decision over the phone. In the past, Faust had been disciplined for a similar decision: taking a patient off a benzodiazepine suddenly and not following protocol afterward. His hearing was last week, though the board has not released the results. Becker, who examined Jacobs after his third seizure, has a hearing with the medical board next month.

When we reached him on Monday, Sheriff Henry Trochesset declined to comment for this story. When asked last August why medical personnel would have deprived Jacobs of the Xanax, all he said was "Xanax is a narcotic" (it's not; it's a controlled substance) and referred all questions to the Soluta medical staff, which never responded to multiple requests for comment.

"We will seek the answers to our questions with this federal lawsuit," Jesse Sr. said, closing out the press conference, "in the hopes of obtaining closure for ourselves and peace for our son's soul."


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