Mom sues county over son’s detention center death

WINNSBORO – A Winnsboro man’s death at the Fairfield County Detention Center has prompted a wrongful death lawsuit from the inmate’s mother.

Debra Knight Croxton, mother of Brent Ray Croxton, filed the suit Feb. 4 in Fairfield County Circuit Court.

Croxton died in his cell on Jan. 27, 2019, when deputies found him hanging from a sheet tied to a bunk bed. His death was due to negligence of detention center officers who failed to follow proper procedures, according to the suit.

“It is more likely than not that the above actions and/or inactions of the Defendants caused Mr. Croxton to needlessly suffer, both physically and mentally, and ultimately die,” the suit states.

The suit lists Fairfield County, the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office, the Fairfield County Detention Center, Southern Health Partners and one of its physicians as defendants. All parties have been served, but no responses had been filed as of press time.

Fairfield County Administrator Jason Taylor declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation. No court date has been set, though a deadline of Aug. 28 has been set to complete mediation. 

Croxton was booked at the county jail on Jan. 24 on a weapons charge, according to the Fairfield County Public Index.

According to the lawsuit, Croxton had been booked on prior occasions and while he previously expressed suicidal tendencies, those tendencies weren’t documented, the suit states.

“Had a proper screening been carried out, the decendent’s obvious suicidal ideations would’ve been apparent, requiring immediate placement on a suicide watch and referred to mental health,” the suit states.

A day later, on Jan. 25, Croxton appeared for a bond hearing.

At the hearing, the presiding judge and an officer noted that Croxton showed no emotion and had “a flat affect” when he was denied bond. Later, Croxton told the jail’s medical officer he was feeling “not good,” the suit states.

Instead of ensuring Croxton received medical care, the medical officer said she’d talk to a doctor about taking him off medical watch. Inmates on medical watch are checked every 15 to 20 minutes, the suit continues.

Croxton was taken off medical watch on Jan. 26. He was found dead the next day, according to the suit.

The lawsuit includes two medical opinions saying Croxton shouldn’t have been taken off medical watch, including an opinion from Dr. Edward O’Bryan with the Medical University of South Carolina. 

“It is more likely than not that had Mr. Croxton received the appropriate examination by medical staff, there likely would have been a more appropriate treatment plan in place at the jail,” O’Bryan’s statement said. “The conscious failure to ensure that Mr. Croxton received the appropriate examination by medical staff was another example of a violation of the appropriate standard of care.”

Also submitting a statement was Amy Crittenden, a nursing professor based in Ohio. Crittenden stated the jail failed to properly oversee its hired health provider, failed to provide basic medical care and failed to communicate with other staff about Croxton’s condition. 

The jail also failed to provide the proper medical treatment, failed to keep accurate records and failed to properly monitor and evaluate Croxton, according to the statement. 

“It is more likely than not that the above actions and/or inactions caused Mr. Croxton to needlessly suffer, both physically and mentally,” the statement added. 

The lawsuit seeks actual, consequential and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial.