Authorities investigate possible suicide at jail

   A Sparta woman’s family is alleging she took her own life in the Monroe County Jail Dec. 18, hours after a bond hearing for OWI and other charges.
   Jennifer Smith, 51, was facing charges of multiple offense drunken driving, resisting an officer, operating after revocation and unauthorized use of an individual’s ID. The court ordered a $15,000 cash bond during the bond hearing at 1 p.m. on the 18th.
   According to a close friend, Smith’s family asked law enforcement to put her on suicide watch because they feared for her safety following the arrest and high cash bond imposed by the judge.
   Monroe County Sheriff Scott Perkins confirmed family members did request Smith be put on suicide watch. However, there was some confusion about her name, and the information was not relayed quickly. Perkins indicated the matter is still under investigation.
   In the mid-afternoon, Perkins said jailers responded to commotion in the female cellblock where Smith was found unresponsive. CPR was conducted and she was transported to the nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead, according to Perkins.
   Perkins said the cause of death is still under investigation and the sheriff’s department is awaiting autopsy results.
   Smith worked at Southside Saloon in Sparta for about two years. Almost immediately after her arrest, friends, family and co-workers began raising money for her bond.
   Southside employees, her employers, Dan and Lisa Zebell, and customers that loved Jennifer raised almost $600. However, shortly after 5 p.m., Lisa Zebell said she got word that Smith had taken her life.
   Smith was preceded in death by one child and is survived by two children, several grandchildren and many friends.
   “She was prompt – if not early – and she had a beautiful smile and a quick wit,” said Zebell.
   No services have been announced.
   There have been at least a pair of suicides in the jail in recent years.
   Jason Eckdahl was 26 when he hung himself with a bed sheet on Jan. 31, 2008.
   In January of 2010, Adrianna Seroy, 37, died of an overdose in the jail.
   In 2002, Brenda Mombourquette unsuccessfully tried to hang herself and suffered permanent brain damage. The woman’s family sued Monroe County and received $5.3 million.

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