Drunken woman dies at county jail

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By AMY LINDBLOM

A Tuolumne County Jail inmate died yesterday in a holding cell where she was supposed to sober up.

Christine Ortiz, 53, of the 22400 block of Gunsight Road, Big Hill area, was pronounced dead at Tuolumne General Hospital about four hours after her arrest in downtown Sonora on suspicion of public drunkenness.

A Sonora police officer arrested Ortiz after she was seen staggering down South Washington Street and crossing the busy road at William Street.

Officer Chad Ellis took her to the Tuolumne County Jail after arresting her, but a jail nurse determined Ortiz was too drunk to be booked and sent her with Ellis to Tuolumne General Hospital to be checked out, Sheriff's Lt. John Steely said this morning.

Steely said Ortiz was examined by a doctor and cleared to be booked about 2 p.m. She was returned to the jail, but because she was still too drunk to answer questions, was placed in a cell with glass doors and windows, Steely said.

While Ortiz was in the cell, a jail deputy checked her every 15 minutes according to the standard procedure for drunken inmates, Steely said. He said the check can be visual through the windows or a deputy can go into the cell if necessary.

Each time an inmate is checked, an entry is made into a log book. Steely declined to comment on what time the log said Ortiz was checked.

"This is all part of the investigation and the records have been turned over to the Department of Justice," Steely said.

At 4 p.m., a jail deputy checked on Ortiz in the cell and found her unresponsive and not breathing, Steely said. Jail staff immediately started CPR, and Ortiz was taken back to Tuolumne General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead a short time later.

Calls to Tuolumne General Hospital were not returned this morning.

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The Union Democrat
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