Nacogdoches inmate's death recalled by eyewitness

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Edwinta Ruth Deckard, 53, of Nacogdoches was setting out a misdemeanor theft charges on a December weekend when she became deathly ill. The days and hours leading up to her death is a living nightmare for Robin Griffin. She was in jail at the time when she and other inmates came to Deckard's aid. Tearfully, Griffin recalls the end.

"I kept saying Edwinta wake up, Edwinta wake up. And she still didn't move. It was just terrible because she (a jailer) lifted her up and she fell back down. I said, 'Don't do her like that,' because she was lifeless at this time. She didn't have no life in her body," recalled Griffin.

Lt. Elizabeth Owens, 40, of Nacogdoches, and Sgt. Danny Ray Russell, 35, of Douglass, turned themselves into the jail on Monday on charges of state-jail felony criminal negligent homicide. Both posted $4,000 bonds.

Griffin still has nightmares about the weekend she watched Deckard become severely ill.

"First time she was laying down asleep and one of the ladies said she was using the restroom on herself. You know, diarrhea," explained Griffin.

Griffin says the illness got worse and worse. It became obvious to the inmates something was very, very wrong.

"You know we were just real concerned and just kept telling them somebody needs to do something, she's not right. Somebody take her to the emergency room," said Griffin.

Griffin says repeatedly the women buzzed jailers from Saturday evening to Monday morning asking for medical help. At one point, Griffin said Russell pulled a mattress off the bunk onto the floor and made Deckard lay there. Griffin said after she woke up from a brief nap she found Deckard across the tank, off the mattress, on the bare floor.

"She was laying there with only a pamper on, on the cold bare floor."

The events continued to worsen, according to Griffin.

"Around 5:30 p.m., this is Sunday, they came, one of the jailers came in, they took her blood pressure. Her blood pressure was 65 over 46 and when they took her blood pressure and they still wouldn't take her to the emergency room I started crying," said Griffin.

The women say jailers handed them gloves, a mop bucket and pampers and told to tend to Deckard's condition.

"They were like getting tired of us pushing the button telling them so they ended up bringing in a whole thing of bags," said Griffin.

Griffin said at one point Deckard was delusional and too weak to walk. That's when Griffin said she saw Sgt Danny Ray Russell pull out a taser.

"He zapped it. He zapped the taser. You could hear it. It startled her a little bit, but she was delusional, but this time she was delusional," said Griffin.

By Monday morning Griffin watched her friend go in and out of conscienceness. At shift change, a roll call went unanswered by Deckard.

"We couldn't find a pulse and I kept putting my hand on her face. She wasn't breathing," said Griffin.

"The jailer would kick at her and say, 'Edwinta, we don't have time for this. Get up now'. But she kept falling over," said Griffin.

An autopsy ruled Deckard died of dehydration.

For Griffin the memory of the horrific weekend continues to haunt her.

Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss says he has a difficult time recognizing the criminal element in this case.

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