A Floyd County inmate died of a suspected overdose last week, days after she was transported from the jail for emergency medical care.
Heather Slone, 38, was transported to Highlands ARH Regional Medical Center on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 4, Floyd County Jailer Stuart “Bear” Halbert reported, after she was found ill in her cell.
Slone was initially arrested by Kentucky State Police Trooper Micheal Haney, and she was booked into the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center in Johnson County at 2:35 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3, charged with giving an officer false information, first-degree possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), possession of marijuana, public intoxication of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and failure to appear.
She was released from custody in Johnson County at 11:17 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4, and transferred to Floyd County, where was booked into the jail, Halbert reported, at 12:51 p.m.
Floyd County Sheriff John Hunt reports that Slone was transported from the Floyd County jail to Highlands ARH at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 4 and she remained there through Friday, Dec. 6, when she was taken to Pikeville Medical Center. On Saturday, Dec. 7, she was pronounced dead.
Haney reported in the citation that he arrested Slone at 11:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 2 on the old Ky. 114 in Magoffin County. She was the passenger in a vehicle in which the driver, Ricky Yates, 57, was arrested for DUI and traffic violations. Haney reported in the citation that while Slone was in the back seat of the cruiser, she turned over a baggies containing what appeared to be marijuana and methamphetamine as well as a needle that she retrieved from her bra.
Big Sandy Regional Detention Center Administrator Byron Hansford reported that Slone told his staff that she was coming off of herion, meth and alcohol when she was booked into the jail in Johnson County.
“She said that, she told the booking officer that she was coming down from herion, meth and alcohol,” Hansford said. “I mean, I’ve made the videos and sent those, turned those over to the investigating officer. If you watch the video, she didn’t seem anything out of the ordinary.”
Hansford said Slone appeared “fine” when she came to the jail, but complained about her stomach prior to being moved to Floyd County.
“Right before she left, she went to video court,” he said. “And when she got to video court, she told the lieutenant that was with her that her stomach was hurting, bothering her a little bit, and the lieutenant, there was a garbage can in there and she slid it over there to her, where she was sick, just in case she got sick while she was in video court.”
He said the lieutenant let Slone fill out a sick call request form after video court was over.
“Then, she fills that out and goes back to her cell and the nurse, they took that sick call to the nurse and she said she would get to her. And before she could get to her, Floyd County picked her up and she went to Floyd County,” Hansford said.
He said, from what Slone had told his staff and her complaints, that it appeared she was detoxing from drugs prior to her release to Floyd County.
“She said her stomach was hurting her, but it appeared with, you know, with what she had told us, and what she told us she was taking, it appeared as detox, you know, detoxing, which is normal,” Hansford said. “And normally, the nurse don’t see them right off; until they’re at a certain point in that process they see them — unless there’s an emergency, and she never indicated anything other than my stomach’s hurting.”
Halbert said Slone did not appear ill when she was booked into the Floyd County Detention Center on Dec. 4. He said another female inmate alerted jail staff about Slone being ill hours later.
Halbert said jail staff were told about Slone becoming “very ill” that evening and she was transported to Highlands. He said she had a “low pulse” rate and was “semi-conscious” prior to being taken to the hospital.
“Actually ... we had checked on her and took her blood pressure and everything was fine when we put her in the cell, and actually, she was in the cell with another cell mate. The girl had knocked on the door and said she had, you know, seemed to be ill or something,” Halbert said. “That’s when we arrived and noticed that she was pretty sick.”
When asked about her condition at booking, Halbert said, “Her vitals and everything was great when she was booked in.”
Halbert said Slone’s cause of death is not known, pending the outcome of the investigations.
“I just do an internal investigation to make sure my employees have done what they were supposed to do, you know, that everything was acted upon and their actions was all fine and all of that,” Halbert said. He said his team should resolve its internal investigation soon, but Hunt said it could take months to complete the full investigation into Slone’s death.
The investigation is complicated, Hunt said, because it requires paperwork and information from several counties.
He reported that his office has interviewed several inmates at both jails and have sought medical records from both hospitals in Floyd and Pike counties.
Hunt said his office was contacted by the jail on Dec. 4, after Slone was taken to the hospital for treatment. He said the department went to Highlands that day to determine whether guard services were needed and to investigate why she was ill.
“She was an inmate, obviously, under guard, so I went there first to make sure the jail had adequate guards sources and didn’t need any additional help,” Hunt said. “But then after we seen her condition, obviously, is when we contacted the jailer and the jailer contacted us also, to find out what happened and do the investigation.”
He said jail officials have cooperated with the investigation. Hunt reported that no autopsy was conducted on Slone, but he said officials suspect she died of a drug overdose.
“We have not yet received a death certificate or there was not an autopsy performed, but we understand that there should be or is suspected to be drug involvement,” Hunt said.
He also stated, “We pretty much suspect there’s some kind of drug involvement. She was arrested in Johnson County on drug charges and, from there, we just figured that she might have swallowed some amounts of meth either prior to being arrested or during her arrest or during her incarceration. We’ve not been able to track exactly where she might have ingested the drugs at.”
He said deputies are working to determine where Slone obtained the drugs, saying that the person or persons who supplied the drugs to her could face charges.
“So far, our investigation seems to be that the injection could have happened long time prior to her being in the Floyd County jail, but we don’t know that,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever know if it was that or when she ingested them. So, we’re trying to find the most recent source to her that either saw her do something or seeing her experience symptoms of being drug induced. That’s what we’re trying to track back to, when and where she might have got the drugs and how she got them.”
Halbert said he does not believe that Slone obtained drugs while she was at the Floyd County Detention Center.
“From all the video and things that I’ve reviewed, I don’t think that’s possible,” he said, when asked that question. “But from everything that I reviewed, I don’t think that she got anything here at the Floyd County Detention Center.”
When asked whether Slone could have died of drug withdrawal, Hansford said, “That’s possible. I have no idea,” he said. “Had it been me, I’d made sure they did an autopsy. That’s just with 20 years as a state police, you know. You got a death that, I think she was, like, 38. You know, I don’t mean it callously, but the things that these people put in their systems, it’s not beneficial to their health, I can tell you that.”
Floyd County Coroner Greg Nelson reported that Slone was pronounced dead at PMC and the doctor there would be responsible for filling out her death certificate. He said Halbert requested an autopsy but he could not request one because her death is out of his jurisdiction, as she died in Pike County.
Haney reported in the citation that Slone lived in Salyersville. Halbert said she reported her address was Martin when she was booked into the Floyd County Detention Center the following day.
Slone was indicted in Floyd County in June, when her address was listed as Water Gap, for first-degree promoting contraband at the jail. The indictment alleged that she brought a lighter into the Floyd County Detention Center on April 11. She also faces charged in two traffic cases filed against her in Floyd County this year as well as a misdemeanor case filed against her in Floyd County in 2014, court records show. Halbert said she faced contempt of court charges in Floyd County.
Halbert said he and the jail staff send their condolences to Slone’s family, calling it a “bad situation” and a “bad deal for everyone.”
“I hate it for the family. The jail hates it, anything like this, for the community and everything,” Halbert said. “It’s just a bad situation and a bad deal for everyone. My condolences and that of the jail staff, go out to the family. It’s just a bad, it’s a bad situation all the way around. Hopefully, when the investigation is over with and everything we can get the cause of death and see and try to prevent anything or any further situations of this happening.”
Slone’s daughter created a GoFundMe fundraiser online, “Heather Slone Funeral Expense,” to raise funds for her mother’s funeral. The teenager reported on that website that she and her siblings were adopted by another family because her mother was a drug addict.
“My biological mom although she was a loving mom, was also a drug addict,” the website says. “Heather’s drug addiction robbed (me) and my sister and brother for a normal carefree childhood, because we were always wondering what we could do to make her love us more than the drugs that kept her from regaining custody of us.”
In seeking funds for the funeral she wrote, “Please help me do this one last thing to show her that although I was adopted, I will forever be her daughter ...”
Slone is survived by three children, two siblings, her grandmother and other family members. Her funeral was held Dec. 15 at Nelson Frazier Funeral Home in Martin. She was buried in the Buckingham Cemetery in Bevinsville.