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Autopsy Confirms Immigrant's Jail Death - Suicide

FRANKFORT, KY -- The final autopsy report released Friday on an immigrant who died in August at the Franklin County Regional Jail while she was waiting to be deported confirms the preliminary finding that she hung herself.

But Franklin County Coroner Will Harrod said he will continue to scrutinize Ana Romero Rivera’s case: The autopsy report from the state chief medical examiner will only be one piece of his investigation to determine what happened at the jail prior to the suicide on Aug. 22.

The final autopsy report raises other questions. In addition to finding that Romero died of asphyxiation, as a result of the hanging, the final autopsy report said she had abrasions on both hands.

Harrod said he saw the abrasions when he pronounced her dead, but he did not know what caused them. Romero had been placed in isolation for not eating just before her death.

Despite the fact that she was in isolation for not eating, there were signs that she had eaten prior to her death: Romero had "Congestion of the lungs with foreign vegetable material within the bronchi," according to the report.

The report describes her as "well-nourished" at five-feet-one and 118 pounds.

Harrod said Friday that in addition to subpoenaing Kentucky State Police records of its investigation into Romero's death, he has also subpoenaed jail and records of the emergency medical technicians who transported her to the hospital.

Kentucky State Police Trooper Ron Turley said KSP will close its investigation as soon as it receives a copy of the autopsy report.

The autopsy report said Romero had a substance called amitriptyline, an anti-depressant, in her system.

Romero's family called for an investigation into her death because they did not think she committed suicide, and were concerned about how she was treated at the jail.

She complained of being sick and vomiting prior to her death.

The attorney representing Romero's family, Matthew Pippin of Shelbyville, did not return calls for comment.

Franklin County Jailer Billy Roberts has not responded to questions of why Romero was in isolation or whether she had received medical treatment prior to her death. Roberts did not return calls for comment.

Though Romero was in the Franklin County jail, she was technically in federal custody after pleading guilty to immigration fraud.

On Aug. 22, the day she was pronounced dead, she was going to be transferred to ICE custody for deportation, ICE officials told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

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