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Mother of Virginia inmate who killed herself files $2.4 million suit

Suit claims sheriff ignored inmate’s pleas for help from heroin withdrawal

By Janie Bryant
The Virginian-Pilot

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The mother of a woman who committed suicide in Portsmouth City Jail two years ago has filed a $2.4 million lawsuit against Sheriff Bill Watson and two unnamed deputies.

Katrina Dee Lassiter, 35, of Suffolk, was in jail on a heroin possession charge and was discovered dead in her cell on Oct. 13, 2008.

Robert J. Haddad, the attorney for Lassiter’s mother, Katherine C. Bynum, did not return a phone message left at his office Friday.

The lawsuit alleges that Lassiter told deputies that she “was getting sick and was experiencing severe symptoms” of heroin withdrawal.

The legal complaint states that Bynum talked to deputies about her daughter’s condition.

It alleges that the sheriff was negligent in providing medical attention, mental health treatment and suicide monitoring.

At the time of Lassiter’s death, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said that deputies had no indication that Lassiter was a suicide risk.

Reached by phone Friday, Watson said the mother has “absolutely no case.”

The sheriff said his understanding is that Lassiter had been laughing and joking on the phone with her mother just before she killed herself.

The phone call was recorded, as all inmate calls are, he said.

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