Autopsy released for man who died at Jessamine Co. Detention Center last year

Published 12:37 pm Thursday, April 6, 2023

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The Jessamine County Coroner’s Office has released its report on the death of 22-year-old Michael Wasson who died in the Jessamine County Detention Center on Dec. 29, 2022.

Jessamine County Coroner Michael Hughes’ report found the inmate’s death to be caused by complications of chronic substance abuse with acute fentanyl intoxication as the “significant condition contributing to death.” The manner of Wasson’s death was identified as accidental.

According to the final diagnosis completed by the office of the state medical examiner, Wasson had been in jail for two days and upon booking, tested negative on a urine drug screening.

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“The decedent was ‘lethargic’ in the jail and his condition was monitored. He had not eaten all day but was talking to the corrections officer and following commands. As he exited his cell, he collapsed. He was taken to the local hospital where we had a core temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit on arrival and tested negative for COVID-19, FLU, and RSV,” the report says

The autopsy included a urine test, in which Wasson tested positive for methamphetamine, fentanyl, and norfentanyl. His postmortem blood toxicology showed positive results for Amiodarone; a medicine for heart rhythm problems, 4-ANPP; an opioid that the Federal Register describes as the “immediate precursor for the schedule II controlled substance Fentanyl,” and Fentanyl for 0.4 ng/mL, which is not in the typical reference range of “comatose and fatal cases” at 3-20 ng/mL.

In response to the discrepancy between the detention center’s urine test and the autopsy urine test, Jessamine County Jailer Jon Sallee explained that the detention center’s instant urine drug screens have a “higher cut-off level than that of a laboratory testing facility such as the test results that are included in the Kentucky Medical Examiner’s Office report.”

“With a positive test from a laboratory testing facility compared to a negative on-site instant urine drug test, this does not create evidence that inmate Wasson had access to narcotics within our facility. Results from a drug testing laboratory would take on average three to five business days to receive results. While our facility would prefer to have every urine sample sent to a drug testing laboratory, due to the need for urgency to receive results that would not be practical,” Sallee said.

Wasson’s autopsy included multiple other findings, such as myocarditis and infective endocarditis, infective tricuspid valve vegetations, septic renal infarcts, hepatosplenomegaly, and scars overlying superficial vasculature.

Myocarditis and endocarditis are both known to cause flu-like symptoms. The two conditions cause inflammation in the heart and can both lead to death if untreated. The National Library of Medicine reported in 2019 that Myocarditis is a “major cause of sudden and unexpected death in infants, adolescents, and young adults.”

“Our agency takes every precaution that we can legally exercise when searching arrestees for concealed narcotics, unfortunately on many occasions these narcotics are concealed inside the body cavities of those arrested. Our employees do not have the capability or the legal authority to search inside an arrestee’s body cavity. The Jessamine County Detention Center recognizes the threat that narcotics create when entering our facility and our staff will continue to search every arrestee as permitted by the Kentucky Revised Statutes,” Sallee said.