Family of Rhea County woman who died in custody files federal lawsuit
In the 38 page federal lawsuit, the family claims 30-year-old Amanda Davis was suffering from a medical emergency and was not properly monitored.
The family of a Rhea County woman who died in jail is calling for changes after deputies found 30-year-old Amanda Davis dead in her cell in June of 2017.
Her family has filed a federal lawsuit listing the county and sheriff among others in the complaint.
In the 38 page federal lawsuit, the family claims Davis was suffering from a medical emergency and was not properly monitored.
They point to overcrowding as part of the reason why Davis died.
Paul Disney remembers the special moment captured in a picture with his daughter, Amanda Davis.
"She had just learned to walk. It was her and I holding hands,” Paul Disney, Amanda’s father said.
The young girl in the picture grew up struggling with addiction.
Her father said it started with pain pills as a teenager and ended with injected meth.
"It makes me sad because she died alone. Nobody needs to die alone. It's heartbreaking,” Disney said.
Disney said the family trusted Rhea County jail officials to watch over his daughter. That's why Amanda's mother called police to take her to jail last June.
"She needed to be taken off the streets. She did not belong in society at that point. She was high,” Disney said.
A day after her court appearance, deputies found Davis dead in her jail cell during a routine check. The district attorney asked the TBI to investigate.
"My assumption was that they would take care of her. They would feed her, give her proper medical care, those types of things, but that didn't occur,” Disney said.
A letter from District Attorney Mike Taylor said Davis died from an infection connected to injecting drugs.
He requested that the TBI close the case in March because there was no evidence of a crime.
"The system is broken I believe,” Disney said.
Days after Davis died, Rhea County Sheriff Mike Neal showed us the overcrowded jail. Neal later paid other county jails to house his inmates to avoid legal action by the state.
"Nobody can bring Amanda back. We all understand that. Just admit it. That's all,” Disney said.
Email records from February show Rhea County officials were still trying to reduce the jail population by releasing inmates who were deemed not to be a threat to the community and reinstating the ankle monitoring program.
Disney said it's not enough. He's hoping a federal lawsuit will help him understand why his daughter was left to die.
"She was the master of her own destiny. At the same time, nobody needs to die like this,” Disney said.
Sheriff Neal did not return repeated calls, text messages, and emails about the lawsuit, but spokesperson Jeff Knight said the department stands behind the district attorney’s decision to close the case.
Disney has never seen his daughter’s booking photo from last June.
As he waits for answers, he says he'll focus on another one instead.
"I remember the happy Amanda and I'm not going to let this scar or cloud her memory,” Disney said.
A spokesperson with the state said a jail inspection for this year has not yet taken place.
The federal lawsuit also said the family wants a jury to try the issues and to determine an amount that's reasonable for damages and the wrongful death of Amanda Davis.
A new jail is on the way for the county to solve the overcrowding problem.
Emails between the sheriff's department and the Tennessee Corrections Institute show it will be at an old hospital site.
It's near Walnut Grove Church Road and highway 27. Asbestos has been removed and Channel 3 has been told demolition is continuing.
It's unclear when it will open.