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Palm Coast Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 1 year ago

Autopsy reveals that young inmate's death was due to stroke; family plans lawsuit

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Anthony Fennick, 23, had experienced an allergic reaction to the antibiotic Bactrim at the county jail, according to the autopsy report.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Anthony Fennick, the 23-year-old who died in February after an illness at the Flagler County jail, died from a stroke, according to an autopsy report from the District 23 Office of the Medical Examiner. His mother has announced plans to sue both the Flagler County Sheriff's Office and the private company that was responsible for medical care at the county jail at the time of Fennick's death.

The stroke followed Fennick's deterioration after he developed an infection and then had an allergic reaction to Bactrim, an antibiotic he'd been prescribed at the jail, according to the report, which was completed by Associate Medical Examiner Deanna Oleske.

"We want to get this right and get justice for my son, and make sure this never happens again. ... Just because someone is incarcerated, they’re still human and they still deserve to be treated humanely and not left to die."

— ERIKA WILLIAMS, mother of Anthony Fennick

Fennick was tested for illegal drugs and had none in his system, and also had no infectious diseases. 

"Bottom line, all it did was it validated what I knew," Erika Williams, Fennick's mother, said of the autopsy report. "I  knew that whatever reason my son passed away was due to that medication that he got while he was there, and ... not being monitored after he was given a prescription and he started showing signs of being sick."

Fennick had been serving a 300-day sentence which began Jan. 9, after an arrest for violating drug court probation, when he became ill. 

It began when he reported "spider bites" on his neck on Jan. 29. He'd told his father in phone calls from the jail that he had a bump on his neck that had grown large and painful. He was diagnosed with folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles), and prescribed the antibiotic Bactrim on Jan. 30, according to the autopsy report.

But over the subsequent days, he reported "fever, confusion, headache, uncoordinated movements, vomiting, decreased appetite, and malaise," according to the report. He was dehydrated, and also developed a rash and was prescribed Benadryl.

"This clinically represents an allergic drug reaction secondary to Bactrim therapy, and likely worsened the decedent's hydration status," the report states. "The findings of dehydration and localized infection over the neck in combination with tobacco usage can lead to a hyper coagulable state." The report added that a familial clotting disorder could also have been a contributing factor. Williams said the family does not have a clotting disorder.

Fennick had told the jail's medical staff for days that he was ill, but, he told his parents in phone calls from the jail, the nurses seemed to assume he was malingering, and didn't take him seriously.

He had a seizure on Feb. 4, was hospitalized, had another seizure at the hospital, and went into a coma.

The autopsy report lists his cause of death as anoxic ischemic encephalopathy — that is, a lack of blood flow to the brain – caused by cerebral venous sinus thrombi, a stroke caused by blood clots.

In its response to Fennick's death, the Flagler County Sheriff's Office fired its medical provider, Armor Correctional Health, and launched a criminal investigation, which is ongoing. The FCSO replaced Armor with Southern Correctional Medicine.

Fennick's family plans to file a lawsuit against both Armor and the Flagler County Sheriff's Office, said Albert Lechner, an attorney for Morgan & Morgan, the law firm representing the family. That will occur after an estate is opened for Fennick, Lechner said, and the timeline for that is uncertain because of a probate judge shortage in the area.

"What's next for my family is to make sure to get justice for my son," Williams said. "For me, getting justice for Anthony means hope for somebody else. So I want to make sure ... for my son’s memory and for his daughter, that nobody ever goes through the torture my son went through, and no family ever goes through what we’re going to have to live with for the rest of our lives. Because it was 100% preventable."

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