A third tragic jail cell death hit headlines on Monday, after a 37-year old Cleveland woman died while being held at the Cleveland Heights Police Station Jail in Ohio. The news follows similar reports out of both Waller County, Texas, where 28-year-old black woman Sandra Bland was found dead in her cell on July 13 of what police claim was a suicide, and Neshoba County, Mississippi, where 53-year-old Choctaw activist Rexdale Henry was discovered in his cell on July 14, dead of unknown causes. By Monday morning, with weeks of bad news already hanging over their heads, the public was left to wonder what happened to Ralkina Jones.
According to Cleveland-based NBC affiliate WKYC, Jones had been arrested on Friday, July 24, after a domestic dispute with her ex-husband, Brandon Jones, in the parking lot of a nearby Save-A-Lot grocery store. Authorities reported that Brandon was sitting in the office of a nearby business when someone informed him that Jones was allegedly damaging his vehicle's windows and windshield with a tire iron. After attempting to stop her, Brandon claimed that Jones struck him with the iron, but that he eventually managed to take it away from her, though he said she allegedly continued hitting him until he and an associate climbed into his vehicle and drove off.
Brandon then claimed Jones followed him in her car with her 12-year-old daughter in the backseat and tried to hit his car with hers. After a phone call to police, responding officers were able to take Jones into custody, booking her on charges of "felonious assault, domestic violence, and child endangerment."
According to the officers who booked her, Jones had been suffering from several medical conditions. Authorities claimed that the conditions were properly documented in her paperwork, and that she was given the appropriate dosages of her prescribed medications. However, by Saturday afternoon, a jail administrator claimed that Jones seemed "lethargic," and officers transported her to a nearby Healthspan clinic for a checkup. Jones was returned to the Cleveland Heights Police Station Jail that same evening, around 11 p.m. Jail administrators reported that paramedics were called back once during the night (around 12:45 a.m.), but that her vital signs were stable.
By the next morning, Jones was dead. Authorities reported that they had checked on her multiple times throughout the night, as protocol suggested, and that she had been alive and breathing until 7:30 a.m. on Sunday. It was unclear, they said, what had killed her.
An autopsy on Monday initially showed "no suspicious injuries," a Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner said in a statement, indicating that "further studies" would help shed more light on Jones' death.
Jones' sister, Renee Ashford, told Cleveland.com reporters that police had indicated Jones' visit to the Healthspan clinic was for "blood pressure and blood sugar" problems, though Ashford said they had not given her any other information since. "Every time we call, we don't get an answer," Ashford said. "That's the upsetting part." Ashford claimed that when she had visited and talked to Jones one day earlier, Jones had seemed "perfectly fine."
Whatever happened to Jones in the short span between her booking and her death early Sunday morning remains inconclusive. By late afternoon on Monday, the Cleveland Heights Police Department had posted the official news to its Facebook page, writing:
Our thoughts are with Ms. Jones's loved ones during this time of loss.