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No Charges in Prison Death

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St. Albans, Vermont - October 29, 2009

Prosecutors say no one will face criminal charges in connection with the death of a Vermont inmate who was denied her medication.

We have now learned that a communications break-down by the private corporation that provides health care services to Vermont's prisons led to the death of Ashley Ellis, but prosecutors say they can not prove it was a crime.

The story began in August when 20-year-old Ashley Ellis was found dead in her cell at the women's prison in St. Albans, just a day and a half after she began serving a month long sentence for gross negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

The Vermont medical examiner later ruled that the 87-pound Ellis died, because she had been denied prescription medication for her severe eating disorder.

But after a month of considering the police investigative reports, Vermont prosecutors have determined there is no criminal intent and no criminal negligence, so no individuals will be charged criminally.

"The Department of Corrections reviewed the medical information, we passed that information along to our medical provider. Now it appears that they did not follow through on delivering her medications," said Vermont Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito.

Based on information derived from several sources, Channel 3 has learned that Ellis' family provided her health records to prison officials several days before she checked into the St. Albans prison to begin her sentence on Friday, August 14th. The records were turned over to Prison Health Services, the private contractor that provides prison health care.

On Saturday the 15th, a doctor for Prison Health Services ordered the nurse at St. Albans to give her, her medication. But there was none in the prison. The nurse called the second shift nurse and left a cell phone message to get the drug at a local drug store and bring it to prison. She did not, and 18 hours later Ellis was dead.

"I don't know what the reason was, but in the end she did not get her medication," said Pallito.

Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito says the death was tragic, but corrections personnel were not responsible, but investigators have determined state prison personnel were not responsible.

An attorney retained by Ashley Ellis's declined comment explaining that he had not yet had a chance to discuss the prosecutor's decision with her family.

We also contacted Prison Health Services for a reaction, but the company also declined comment.

Brian Joyce - WCAX News

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