County authorities investigate inmate death, complete autopsy pending toxicology results

An inmate of the Henry County Jail, around 5:45 p.m. on Thursday allegedly told deputies she had taken an excessive amount of prescription blood pressure medication, according to a release from the Henry County Sheriff’s Office.

The Henry County Department of Public Safety responded to the jail when deputies requested emergency medical personnel to check the inmate’s condition. Based on that evaluation, deputies transported the inmate to SOVAH Health Martinsville at 6:50 p.m. Thursday, the release stated.

Upon leaving the jail, Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said that Fitzgerald was coherent and was not in any immediate sign of distress.

“Some of the inmates complain about symptoms–whether they are true or not,” Perry said. “My deputies determined that the situation was serious and immediately acted to get medical personnel on scene. After EMS checked her out, they took her to get the care she needed.”

Tanna Shelton Fitzgerald, 54, of Fieldale, died at SOVAH Health Martinsville around 2:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 15, the release stated.

Preliminary results from an autopsy was performed at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the Western District of Virginia on October 15 showed no obvious signs of trauma or foul play, according to the release. The complete autopsy report is pending results of toxicology testing.

It is unknown how Fitzgerald obtained an excessive amount of her medication, according to Perry.

“We always make a conscious effort to do everything to safeguard against the abuse of prescription-based drugs,” Perry said. “The inmates take their pills in front of the officers and there is an observation that the pill had been taken.”

Perry said while the safeguards are in place, some inmates still find ways to get around the system.

“The only way is if something had been taking place to manipulate” the process, Perry said.

The preliminary results from that autopsy showed no obvious signs of trauma or foul play.  The complete autopsy report will be pending toxicology testing.

Perry said that “it can take up to 3, 4, or 6 months” before toxicology testing could be finished.

Fitzgerald was jailed on May 20, on three felony charges related to the alleged shooting death of Pamela Morse. She was being held in the Henry County Jail without bond.

The Henry County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Division responded to the incident and conducted an investigation. Additionally, the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, according to Virginia Department of Corrections guidelines, reported this death to the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC), which also will conduct an investigation and review the incident.

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