A Diabetic Woman Died In The Irving Jail Because The Staff Didn’t Give Her The Insulin They Knew She Needed

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In early November, 37-year-old Sarah Tibbetts was in a motel room in Irving with her boyfriend, 35-year-old Jack Pritchard, when the police arrested both of them—Tibbetts for allegedly being in possession of someone else’s credit card and baggies containing trace amounts of marijuana, Pritchard on old warrants. Tibbetts had been convicted on misdemeanor charges in the past—trespassing and drug possession—and during her prior arrests, she had made it clear that she was a diabetic who was dependent on insulin. 

According to a report from the Dallas Morning Newsthe jail staff was aware that Tribbetts needed the insulin (which is available over-the-counter in Texas)—they just limited their efforts at finding her the treatment she required to calling Tibbetts’ mother, who lives in California. 


Family said that Tibbetts’ arrests usually ended with a minor charge being dropped and a trip to the hospital for insulin, which she either left behind or wasn’t allowed to use because it was improperly labeled.

But this time, something went wrong.

Rebecca Tibbetts, Sarah’s mother, said staff phoned her a day after the motel arrest and asked her to bring the medicine to jail.

“I said I’m in California. I can’t bring it up,” said Rebecca Tibbetts, who lives in that state. “I said my daughter is insulin-dependent and she will die without her insulin. If you can’t provide it, she needs to be sent to a hospital.”

The next morning, Sarah Tibbetts lay unconscious on the floor of her cell.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Pritchard, from his cell nearby, watched as his girlfriend of six years died in front of him. 

The jail staff in Irving is currently under investigation. Two supervisors at the jail are currently under paid leave pending that investigation; criminal charges are a possibility, and Tibbetts’s mother raised the possibility of a wrongful death lawsuit in an interview with the Morning News

A jail employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that staff knew Tibbetts needed insulin before her death. A police spokesman would not discuss the incident while the city investigates and the district attorney considers possible criminal charges — standard after an in-custody death.

“We want to find out what happened,” spokesman John Argumaniz said. “Everyone wants to make sure that in no way, shape or form do we jeopardize the investigation of the grand jury.”

Rebecca Tibbetts expects her daughter’s autopsy will link the death to diabetes and may file a wrongful death suit.

The possibility of criminal charges and civil lawsuits are presumably cold comfort for Tibbetts’s mother and for Pritchard. Comments on the Dallas Morning News‘ story posted online, meanwhile, are a mix of people who are outraged about Tibbetts’s death and those who are outraged by the money that will presumably be spent on the lawsuit. “Why should they take responsibility when she didn’t,” a commenter argued; another insisted, “When you do drugs the consequences can be dire,” as though a death from diabetic shock is a reasonable consequence of marijuana possession. 

It’s a common argument when cases like these come up: the notion that people who are accused of crimes deserve whatever happens next, up to and including death. It’s something you can find when you look at the case of Kelvion Walker, the 19-year-old Dallas man who was shot and killed by police while witnesses say his hands were in the air and he was reclining in the passenger seat of a car believed to have been stolen. These comments appear on various stories from outlets on Walker’s death from the Dallas Observer and MyFoxDFW: 

Here’s an idea. Don’t steal other people’s property and maybe you won’t get shot.

Whats the lesson learned here? 
Just the first ones that come to mind.
1. Don’t steal cars and gunpoint. 
2. Don’t ride around in a stolen car.
3. Don’t hide from the police and then surprise them when your in the act of committing a crime. 
4. Get off drugs and get a job.
5. Don’t associate with criminals.

Those are neat arguments to make, that come with a moral self-righteousness that is satisfying to express. “Get off drugs and get a job” is not bad advice for most people without jobs who use drugs, but the idea that this is to be enforced under penalty of death—or, in the case of Walker, who is currently recovering from his gunshot wounds, merely severe injuries—is a particularly brutal stance to take. 

 

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  • Linc

    Eh?

    “It’s something you can find when you look at the case of Kelvion Walker,
    the 19-year-old Dallas man who was shot and killed by police…

    “but the idea that this is to be enforced under penalty of
    death—or, in the case of Walker, who is currently recovering from his
    gunshot wounds, merely severe injuries”

  • Rockelle Munsch

    All Metroplex police departments seem to have a problem with killing people. Dallas, Fort Worth, Keller have all shot unarmed people for minor crimes. Shoplifting? Really? Yet they all seem to move on and do it again. Maybe because there never seem to be consequences.

  • Nicholas

    She deserved it?! The woman hadn’t even had a trial. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?!

  • PalmTreeMomma

    This woman did not deserve to die and the IPD should be held responsible. What has happened to our PD’s in the metroplex? This kind of stuff does not make any of them look good. Have they turned against the citizens?

  • brandon

    God please let the family sue the department for everything they have including there jelly donuts…people make mistakes people break the law but people are not suppossed to be killed by some piece of trash police officer or jailer!!! Cops are not let me repeat or not heros they are a necessary evil..and they are punks that got picked on in school and are nosey chumps by nature..I go to sleep with peace knowing that I make more money in a month than the average mid ranking police officer does in 10 years!! Haha..they could too but they feel the need to hide behind life..namely a badge.lol..hey all you police officers just go get my cat out of the tree and polish the wheels on my porsche while you are there..thank you for doing it your my hero.lol..I have always been polite to them but I have been bothered by them so much that I’m done with them…even had a fannin county highway patrol make obscene remarks about my wife but luckily his partner was not willing to play along with his game so they let me ho when I probably should have been arested…I had him fired because his partner had to testify against him !!!look folks if we keep making people like that in the heroes the judges that are elected whenever convict them because they will not get reelected if they convict what we call a hero…he’s a hero if someone who would do something that we don’t want to do like our dirty work…the dangerouservants and they should be treated as such servants and they should be treated as such..period!

    • Jennifer

      I hope to God you never need a police officer to assist you in any way shape or form. If I knew about I would show them this post and let you fend for yourself. Not all police officers are bad or got picked on in school. It’s a duty they feel they are called upon to fulfill. And they don’t become police officers for the money.

      • Heath

        Police are paid to do their job. You shouldn’t have to cheerlead for them to get them to do it right. Even if you don’t appreciate them they don’t have the privilege to decline to perform their hired function.

      • Go girl

        You must not be African American. AA face undo abuse from policemen and prosecutors on a daily basis. I agree that there are good cops out there but for some reason they dont’ get sent into the AA communities.

      • brandon

        Hey jennifer show who you want where you want..you see there used to be a thing called free speech ..maybe they would arrest me for the things I say ..but can’t you see that’s my point? We need there facilities and there resources but we don’t need there oh so common neglect they need to be nameless faceless drones that do what they get paid to do…you and I pay them!!! And yes my poor dear it is a nasty little secret they all have…they don’t do it for the glory of serving it ainr meant to be that way..no money no cop..although true they ALL have various shortcoming that lead them into that field.don’t fool yourself for the sake of your own wellbeing I bet you believe in santa too…law inforcement is needed..but the unbalanced humans that feel the positions are arrogent and pittiful..you being a woman probably see the awe shucks side of them because they want to bend you over the hood.lol…anyway there is some food for thought..by the way me and my 45 cal.can do our own policing ..trust me sweetheart I don’t and won’t call the police.lol. 😉

        • Jeebus

          I hope someone takes that .45 & shoves it up your @ss.

        • Payton Blake

          Oh, so you’re admitting that you’re a murderer?

    • Go girl

      I’m so with u. A person in American society is ASSUMED INNOCENT until proven otherwise! I don’t care what crime she committed she should have been provided with the necessary medical care.

  • Karen Pugh

    Wow, people are very cold hearted. This person did not deserve to die like this, no matter the transgression. Shame on the police department.

  • I Am Type 1

    Dan Solomon, you really need to learn more about diabetes before spouting off as you have.

    I have type 1 diabetes. If you take TOO MUCH insulin, you become hypoglycemic and you are, indeed, in very grave danger of lapsing into a coma and dying.

    But if you take TOO LITTLE insulin, that is called hyPERglycemia, otherwise known as “untreated diabetes.” There are millions of people walking around with it right now, and they’re not dropping dead. Over time it can have quite bad effects – blindness, amputations, death – but those come only after YEARS of being left untreated. If you don’t take your insulin for a couple of weeks, as in this case, you’ll get sluggish and thirsty, and you’ll have to urinate more often. But you will not die.

    If you don’t believe me, call an endocrinologist (it’s called “research”). Or ask the American Diabetes Foundation:

    http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-glucose-control/hyperglycemia.html

    • Eve Brown

      Exactly my thoughts. I am not sure anyone could die from missing one day of insulin. If she did die from a diabetic coma, it was likely from her own neglect over days or weeks of drug use and lack of responsibility for her own health.

    • Leslie

      I’m sorry, but that isn’t right. My son and sister both have type 1 diabetes. If they are without insulin for more than a few hours, their blood starts to turn acidic. Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) can set in within hours after that. DKA is an acute condition that can quickly lead to coma or death. I have an acquaintance whose daughter’s insulin pump wasn’t working during the night; the next morning they had to rush her to the hospital for DKA when they found her unresponsive in her bed the next morning. There may be some type 1 diabetics “walking around” without insulin, but those are ones in the early stages of the disease, whose pancreases still make SOME insulin. You are right that blindness, amputation, etc. are long-term complications. But, as to DKA, you have gotten some incorrect information somewhere & I sincerely hope that you will research this for yourself, so you don’t mistakenly decide to skip your insulin for a while at some point in the future.

      • I Am Type 1

        Leslie – You are correct about DKA; I should have mentioned that. Yes, it is possible that Ms. Tibbetts was a type 1 diabetic who went ketoacidic and died. It should be noted that (1) the article doesn’t say whether she was type 1 or type 2; and (2) DKA is not a certainty if you don’t take your insulin. I once went to China for 5 days and forgot my insulin. I called my doctor as soon as my flight landed and she told me, basically, to drink a lot of water, avoid eating carbs, and keep monitoring my blood sugar, and if it was drifting too high she would do what it took to call in a prescription to a Chinese pharmacy. I followed her instructions and my blood sugar never got above 200.

        All that said, I would like to get a lot more information about Ms. Tibbetts – information that Dan Solomon didn’t mention in his article – before proclaiming this a death due to DKA. No judgments/insults to Ms. Tibbetts, but there are any number of reasons why people with unstable lives and long arrest records can die.

        • Leslie

          I’m glad that you acknowledge DKA as a possibility. It may not be a certainty that an insulin-dependent diabetic will go into DKA and die within 2 days without insulin, but it’s certainly a huge risk that should have been prevented. Ketoacidosis can set in within a few hours without insulin. In Pumping Insulin, John Walsh, one of the leading authors on pumps, warns against going to bed with an unexplained high blood sugar if you use an insulin pump, the implication being that, if your pump has stopped working for some reason, you may develop DKA and not wake up the next morning. DKA is far from unusual, Here’s a quote from a scientific article: ” Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is one of the most common, costly, and dangerous acute complications in people with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Although DKA has been reported to occur with less frequency than severe hypoglycemia, it is associated with a higher mortality rate and is the leading cause of diabetes-related deaths in children and adolescents. The most common risk factor for DKA is lack of adherence to insulin treatment. Other factors include underinsurance, psychiatric disorders, occlusion of insulin pump infusion sets, and illness.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=pump+occlussion+dka Please note that insulin pump infusion sets are changed every 3 days, so DKA from an occluded insulin set would typically be DKA that developed in 3 days or less. (I’m not saying Ms. Tibbetts had an insulin pump; I’m just pointing out how quickly DKA can commonly happen with no insulin.) So, no, I don’t know for sure that Ms. Tibbetts died of DKA, although it seems likely, but I do know for sure that she should have gotten insulin quickly. The misconception some people have that it’s “just diabetes” (which I’m afraid your initial comment reinforced) puts people like my little son in danger whenever he’s away from me. I’m glad your China trip went that well. I wonder if your pancreas was still partly working at that time. I cannot imagine our doctors ever giving us that advice or it turning out happily for my son.

          • I Am Type 1

            My main complaint was that it is irresponsible for this author to say, as he does in the headline, that she died “because staff didn’t give her insulin.” If he can’t even answer the question as to whether she was type 1 or type 2, I find it hard to believe he can determine cause of death with enough certainty to defend this headline.

            The story needs a lot more research and a lot fewer histrionics. When a person has a record of many arrests and much drug abuse, and her child has been taken from her by CPS, there are a lot of risk factors in play.I don’t think it’s acceptable for the author to deliberately inflame readers by proclaiming what killed her. I realize we live in a “shoot first and don’t ask any questions” world here on the internet, but accusing someone of killing a prisoner is a pretty serious charge, and to make it without considering other possibilities is bad reporting, to say the least.

          • betterherthanme

            Career criminals they are… He thinks he is above the law…and drugs are more important to them than their own children are. Now Jack has to find another woman to mooch off of and drag through the mud. Not just traces of marijuana either… They had a stolen car, and someones stolen credit cards…

        • B

          She was type 1. She had slipped away twice due to no insulin but was rushed to the hospital and saved. I hope someone pays!

    • Mom of a Type 1

      Wow….to Eve Brown and the ‘I have type 1′ posters – you may have summed up in just a few words what the true meaning of ignorance is….laughable to the point of crying. Research you say? Do your own, get informed….and may you never again write so much erroneous information on Type 1 diabetes. Type 1’s (autoimmune disease) can’t walk around for days without insulin – hours without can be life threatening. Type 2’s, who have poor control over their type of diabetes (diet and lifestyle),and are on a daily insulin regime, may be able to go without insulin for a few days – although surely not a smart choice. It saddens me that the ‘I Have Type 1′ poster is so ignorant that he/she doesn’t even know the type of diabetes they have or if they in fact have Type 1, that they are so under-educated on the disease that is their’s to carry for life.

    • Leslie

      p.s., Even the link that “I Am Type 1″ provides states that ketoacidosis is life-threatening and needs immediate treatment.

  • dhc

    The mom said her daughter was ‘insulin dependent’ which means that she needed to have insulin to survive. Usually when people “in the know”, like her mother, use that terminology it means Type 1. If you are truly a type 1 diabetic you also probably already know this.

  • Oregon_Longhorn

    I would bet that every one of those saying that she deserved what happened to her would claim in the next breath that they believe the US Constitution is divinely inspired.

  • betterherthanme

    Exactly… get off drugs and get a job!!!! and JACK PAY YOUR 40K back CHILD SUPPORT LOSER!!!!

  • betterherthanme

    I dont understand why those two had not gone to prison yet… They rob ppl for a living and use the money to buy crack and crystal meth. She was a weak minded woman to be sitting up under that criminal Jack who is nothing better than a hobo. Believe me I know them and moved clear a across the nation so I didn’t go to prison for blowing both of them away. Personally I hope this wakes Jack Pritchett up and shows him that Karma is a bitch… you don’t get away with it forever… and the same horrible life you plan for your children is the one that you will live.. Nope I dont feel sorry for her or him… Her family should appreciate she died in a jail and not on the streets somewhere and never found until her body was so badly decomposed that they would have to use her dental records to ID her. Jack isn’t some innocent guy misunderstood. I am just wondering why didn’t they put him in prison for the gun he stole? the cars he has stolen… The drunk driving… The houses he has robbed…the MANY MANY MANY other offenses that he has committed. you can google his arrest record. Not to mention the 40K dollars he owes in back child support to his three little kids…If Irving PD had put him away many years ago this would have never happened… And yes they do tamper with grand jury decisions… They had no money for medicine But had plenty of money to live in hotels and buy drugs with. To me thats her fault. She did wrong by choosing to live that life with him, losing her kid… and supporting him to not take care of his.Its sad a child lost his mom but she wasn’t even responsible enough to keep her own kid away from the grasp child protective services ALL because she was trying to make sure Jack never got caught and had to pay his child support so they lived from hotel to hotel.. to never have an address to get served at…oh well PARTY’s OVER now. .I guarantee you if she was not laid up under that deadbeat dad she would still be alive…

    • TrulyJulie

      Just wanted to tell you that I appreciate the extra background you provided, both on this page and the linked DallasNews article where you posted under another name. It sounds like these two put you through hell and you made the wise choice to get away from it and protect your kids from him. Moving forward, I hope your journey is joyful and full of only loving people.

  • aha3taw3h

    there are two obvious options here:
    1) charge the staff with murder + life in prison
    2) just take them out back and shoot them. replace them with a staff with an IQ > 80 next time.