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MCSO failed to document required supervision rounds leading up to inmate's death

In the 24 hours prior to Francine Laney's death, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office failed to document 10 required rounds, according to a state inspection.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Leading up to the death of a Mecklenburg County Detention Center inmate in March, detention officers failed to document multiple required supervision rounds, according to a North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services statement of deficiencies report obtained by WCNC Charlotte.

Francine Laney, 31, died on March 2 after she was found unresponsive in her cell in the detention center infirmary, MCSO previously announced.

RELATED: Detainee at Mecklenburg County jail dies, officials say

A state report provided to MCSO found detention officers only followed through with half the required number of supervision rounds on multiple occasions, specifying 10 instances between March 1 at 6 p.m. and March 2 at 6:55 p.m. where guards only documented one of the required two hourly rounds.

"Further review of documented supervision rounds record indicated that the missed documented supervision rounds resulted in non-compliance with the no more than 40 minutes between supervision rounds requirement of the Rule," the compliance investigation report concluded.

RELATED: Mecklenburg County sheriff says conditions inside detention center are improving

Laney's death report, filed with the state on March 4, lists the last supervision round completed when she was alive at 5:43 p.m. She was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m.

State rules require guards to make supervision rounds and observe each inmate at least twice an hour and at least four times an hour for inmates on special watch. The state deficiency report said Laney was on a "twice per hour direct observation watch."

Laney's cause of death remains unclear as the medical examiner and State Bureau of Investigation continue to investigate. MCSO reported Laney first was processed into custody on Jan. 30 and made no phone calls nor received any legal or professional visits during her stay.

"MCSO cannot comment on this matter while under investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation," MCSO Public Information Manager Janet Parker said in response to WCNC Charlotte's questions. "We appreciate your understanding that MCSO wants to ensure the SBI investigation is conducted in a totally impartial manner. MCSO will release information when the SBI and medical examiner's investigation is completed and made public."

MCSO also provided WCNC Charlotte with the following statement:

"MCSO has received a statement of deficiencies in response to NCDHHS’ compliance investigation conducted on March 16, 2022. MCSO has already begun a plan of correction which will be submitted to the Chief Jail Inspector by April 27, 2022. While we have begun a plan of correction, the in-custody death of Francine Laney is still under investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation. We must respect their process to keep the integrity of the investigation and ensure it is conducted impartially."

Sheriff Garry McFadden conceded in December that staffing shortages prevented officers from routinely making required rounds. A state inspection later that month confirmed the agency's failure to meet the minimum standard. During a presentation to the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners just days after Laney's death, the sheriff said the agency will use a time clock system to ensure officers are completing and documenting supervision rounds.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: NCDHHS inspection finds Meck Detention Center failed to meet minimum supervision requirements

MCSO previously reported Laney was found unresponsive around 6:20 p.m. and that medical personnel began administering CPR and a nurse called 911. 

An internal report identifies the nurse as the person who found the inmate in need of medical help. According to the sheriff's office, the Charlotte Fire Department arrived around 6:36 p.m. followed by Medic. Before Laney was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m., MCSO said first responders continued CPR, connected an IV and administered an automatic external defibrillator (AED).

"Words can not express the devastation of losing a resident so soon after the shooting involving one of our deputies and now the emotional trauma on staff," McFadden said after Laney's death. "We are deeply saddened to report this death."

Contact Nate Morabito at nmorabito@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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