Fennick had complained of fever for days before he was taken to the hospital after a seizure, his parents said.
A young man who was hospitalized in critical condition after a medical incident at the Flagler County jail is being removed from life support on Saturday, Feb. 9, family members said.
Anthony Fennick, 23, had told the jail's medical staff for days that he was ill, but was only hospitalized when it was too late to help him, his parents said.
"The one thing that I can not forget or ever forgive is that knowing the way my son spent his last five days of his life," said Fennick's mother, Erika Willams. "My son experienced a very painful death. It wasn’t a sudden death. It wasn’t like, OK, he was sick but he was being treated. No. It was a very slow, painful agonizing death."
"My son literally cooked from the inside out. And they let that happen. That's the part that I will never get out of my mind, knowing that my baby was telling me this, twice a day."
— ERIKA WILLIAMS, Anthony Fennick's mother
He had called twice a day, she said, until he was hospitalized on Monday, Feb. 4.
"I heard it from his voice and his conversation," she said. "The fevers, the shivering, the not being able to have a bowel movement for four days, the not big able to shower for four days because he was so weak. I will always remember that. My son literally cooked from the inside out. And they let that happen. That's the part that I will never get out of my mind, knowing that my baby was telling me this, twice a day … until the last day he only called me one time. And when he didn’t call me by 10:30, by 10:20, I knew something was wrong."
Fennick was serving a 300-day sentence that began Jan. 9, after he was arrested and on a charge of violating drug court probation for a felony charge for unlawful possession of a controlled substance and burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, according to the FCSO.
Williams said that she didn't want it to sound like she thought her son hadn't deserved to be in jail. "He should have been there, because he was serving his time," she said. "My problem was the care that he got. That's the problem that I have."
The Flagler County Sheriff's Office on Feb. 6 issued a short news release stating that the agency is initiating an investigation into Fennick's case.
The release states that Fennick "suffered a medical episode" as the jail staff prepared to take him to AdventHealth Palm Coast. The agency is limited in its ability to speak about Fennick's case because of patient privacy laws and the ongoing investigation.
But Fennick's family said that after days of a fever, Fennick had had a seizure, and that he had a second one when he arrived at the hospital.
"Our medical team screens and evaluates every inmate at the detention facility,” FCSO Chief Steve Cole said in the news release. “The medical team is available to inmates at their request. They reacted as soon as the medical episode was reported.”
The FCSO contracted with Armor Correctional Health, a private company, in 2018 to provide medical care for inmates. There are nurses on staff around the clock, but a doctor is only at the jail once a week.
Dan Williams, Fennick's father, said that FCSO Chief Paul Bovino — who is acting sheriff while Sheriff Rick Staly is out of the country with the FCSO's SWAT team, which is participating in a competition in the United Arab Emirates — had visited Fennick at the hospital. FCSO Chief Steve Brandt and Detective Annie Conrad had also spoken with Fennick's family.
"They seemed remorseful and apologetic," Dan Williams said. "They told us, 'If there's anything we can do let us know,' and that this matter will be investigated tenfold."
'We knew something was wrong'
Dan Williams said his son didn't have any serious medical problems when he arrived at the jail.
"The kid's been healthy his whole life," Dan Williams said. "I mean, he had kidney stones before, and he passed them without any medicine or anything. ... He’s not a whiner. Ever since he’s been a baby, he’s never whined when he was sick or anything. So when he told his mom, 'I'm sick and I don’t feel good,' we knew something was wrong, because he’s totally not like that."
"Two twenty on Monday was the last time we heard from him, and my wife could hardly recognize the voice on the phone. We recognized the number."
— DAN WILLIAMS, Anthony Fennick's father
He'd called on Wednesday, Jan. 30. The problems had started when Fennick got an odd bump on his neck. It got bigger — big enough that he couldn't turn his head without it hurting, his father said.
So he went to a nurse at sick call in the jail, and was given an antibiotic and some ointment. Fennick told his parents the nurses thought it was a cyst. But the next day, Fennick woke up feverish. He was still feverish that night, and was given ibuprofen, his father said.
"This went on for five days, and he’s been running a fever," Dan Williams said. "Every day he called us at least twice a day, because he always did, and it would be progressively worse."
Fennick also told his parents that he was not being given clean clothes and linens to replace ones that had become sweat-dampened from his fever. At one point, he woke up with a red, full-body rash.
On Sunday, the day before he was hospitalized, Fennick placed his second call of the day much earlier than he usually did — at 7 p.m. or 7:15 instead of 10:30 p.m., his father said.
He told his parents that his whole body ached, that it was hard to stand up, and that he wanted to sleep. He said he needed to see a doctor, but that he'd been told that he couldn't see one until Tuesday: the contracted doctor from Armor Correctional only comes in one day a week.
He said he'd been so dazed that he couldn't get himself into his prison jumpsuit.
"Two twenty on Monday was the last time we heard from him, and my wife could hardly recognize the voice on the phone. We recognized the number," Dan Williams said.
Dan Williams said his son had said that while some nurses were helpful, others assumed he was malingering. At one point, two detention deputies — Brandon Twing and Jarred Tazewell — intervened, Dan Williams said.
"They took him to the nurse's station and said, 'He’s sick, he’s not faking this,'" Dan Williams said. Still, Fennick told his parents, the nurse was skeptical.
Meanwhile, Erika Williams repeatedly called the Sheriff's Office trying to get jail staff to take her son's illness seriously. But the jail staff, Dan Williams said, was tight-lipped, stating that they did not have an updated medical release form from Fennick that would allow them to discuss his condition.
"She would go, 'I don’t want medical information; I’m just telling you, my son has this fever, and somebody needs to look at it,'" Dan Williams said.
Fennick was admitted to the hospital on Monday night, Feb. 4. His family was informed by hospital staff the following morning, Dan Williams said.
"They said, 'Your son’s here and he’s in ICU, and you need to get down here as soon as you can," Dan Williams said.
When the Williams arrived at the hospital, Fennick was on life support with no brain activity. Hospital staff told them that he'd had a seizure at the jail. On arrival at the hospital, he had a second seizure, and went into respiratory and cardiac arrest.
For nine minutes, hospital staff tried to resuscitate him. They were able to revive a faint heartbeat, but Fennick was unconscious, Dan Williams said.
"Nobody’s given us any indication of what happened or why he had the seizures," Dan Williams said the evening of Feb. 9. "Still, we have no idea. They said there was swelling and fluid on the brain. ... They suspect it was because he had a high fever all these days."
After Fennick's heart attack, Dan Williams sad, the hospital staff performed a brain scan and found that there was no blood going to Fennicks' brain.
The doctors knew Fennick was not going to live. They told the family to start making his funeral arrangements.
"They said, 'In the morning, we’re going to proceed with unhooking the machines,'" Dan Williams said.
Dan Williams held the Armor Correctional Health staff at the jail responsible for what happened to his son.
"I don’t believe he’s been receiving the right medical care," Dan Williams said. "I think they really dropped the ball. If someone’s running a fever for that many days, they should have been attended to."
Erika Williams said that before his probation violation arrest, Fennick's life had been improving: He'd finished a drug rehabilitation program in Deland and then quickly gotten a job as a dish washer at a local restaurant.
He has a 2-year-old daughter.
"He was never a bad father: That was daddy's little girl," Erika Williams said. Now, Erika Williams added, "All she does is ask for 'Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.' Now, I'll have to explain to her why he's not here."
Williams said she did not want her son's death to be in vain.
"If we can use his experience to save one more life, and prevent them from dying in agony, and prevent one family from going through what we’re going though, then my son didn’t die in vain," she said. "And I know I am keeping my son’s spirit alive."
Correction: This story has been corrected to accurately reflect the date Fennick reported early symptoms to his parents by phone — Wednesday, Jan. 30.