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Woman’s death in Sherman County jail in Kansas is investigated

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, at 6:32 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, at 11:20 p.m.

Speeding got two Kansas City sisters pulled over in western Kansas. The marijuana they’d purchased in Colorado, just weeks after it became legal there, got them thrown in jail.

What’s unclear is why one of the sisters died Wednesday in the Sherman County, Kansas, jail.

Relatives of Brenda Sewell continued to search for answers on Thursday. They want to know what caused the 58-year-old woman to foam at the mouth, and why jailers took too long, in their opinion, to help Sewell as her sister and another cellmate tried to revive the woman.

Sewell, a recent widow who had one son, died Wednesday at the Goodland Regional Medical Center. She and her sister, Joy Biggs, had been pulled over Monday by the Kansas Highway Patrol in Goodland, Kan., suspected of speeding. A trooper arrested them after finding a small amount of marijuana, relatives said.

The Sherman County Sheriff’s Office won’t be commenting until an investigation is completed.

It could be several days before the investigation, by Goodland police, is finished, said Goodland Police Chief Cliff Couch.

For about a decade, Sewell had been treated for hepatitis C, thyroid problems and fibromyalgia, said her younger brother, Rick Ray, of Kansas City. She was carrying several medications for the ailments, Ray said.

“She had some health problems but nothing that was life-threatening; it was under control,” he said.

But Ray said that jailers would not give Sewell her medications because she kept them in a daily pill container instead of the original bottles, and jailers were unable to identify the pills.

Biggs, who was too distraught to talk about the incident Thursday, told the family that Sewell had not been feeling well since Monday. Jailers sent her to a hospital on Tuesday, and then returned her to the jail. Early Wednesday, she began foaming at the mouth.

Biggs told her family that she pleaded for jailers to help while she began cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. The family believes the jailers should have responded faster, Ray said.

Sewell was rushed back to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The family wants to find what caused her death, Ray said.

The Sherman County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that said: “At this time as is typical in cases like this the investigation was immediately turned over to an outside agency. No further comments will be made pending the results of autopsy and outside investigation.”

While in Colorado, Sewell had purchased a small amount of marijuana to help ease pain associated with her various ailments, as well as to manage nausea and to help improve her appetite, Ray said.

She had recently purchased a motor home from a Colorado couple, who drove it to Kansas City. The sisters drove the couple back to Colorado. They were on their way home when the highway patrol pulled them over in Goodland.

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com.

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