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Inmate's cause of death at Hamilton County Justice Center still unknown nearly a month later

Posted at 12:44 AM, Dec 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-20 10:29:31-05

CINCINNATI — Twenty-five-year-old Jessica Stroup died Nov. 30 at the Hamilton County Justice Center. Her mother, Bridgett Hoskins, still doesn't know how.

"You can't get closure" without answers, Hoskins said at a Thursday night vigil on the steps of the jail. "You can't finish your grieving process."

Hoskins said Stroup, a mother of two, was addicted to heroin for five years. Her Nov. 26 arrest on possession charges was almost a relief.

"Because they're not going to find her dead in some ally somewhere from ODing or getting killed by somebody," Hoskins said. "She was here. She was going to get something to eat. She was warm. She wasn't sleeping on the cold street."

And then, four days later, she was dead. A forensic analysis of her remains could take up to 16 weeks to complete.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office doesn't suspect foul play, spokesman David Daugherty said Thursday night. The investigation remains open, and deputies will wait for the coroner to rule on the cause of death.

"We want to know what happened to Jessica as well," Daugherty said. "We care. We just don't know what happened."

If Stroup got drugs in jail, Hoskins wants to know how. If she died from withdrawal, Hoskins wants to know if more could have been done to save her.

"She was a mother," Stroup's friend Bryce Phillips said at the vigil. "She was someone who mattered."

Friends, family and community activists gathered on the steps of the Hamilton County Justice Center to raise awareness about Jessica's story, then marched to a nearby meeting of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners.

"There needs to be some answers and there needs to be some accountability for Jessica's death," Hoskins said to the board.

"I have contacted the sheriff's office and my understanding is that there is an ongoing investigation," Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus said.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is currently facing a federal wrongful-death lawsuit related to the October 2017 death of inmate Tommy Britt. The lawsuit claims the jail failed to provide adequate medical care while the inmate was battling an infection and heroin withdrawal.

"I thought she was safe," Hoskins said. "I didn't worry about her when she was here."