Georgia inmate Yoel Robton first wrapped the blanket he’d tied into makeshift noose around his bedpost around noon, spending the next eight hours placing it around his neck in apparent suicide attempts.
Not a single guard at the Doraville Detention Center noticed until it was too late.
Now an insurance company for the city will ante up $2 million for the mentally ill man’s suicide after settling a lawsuit with his mother.
Records show jailers failed to check on her son every 20 minutes as city policy required and they failed to give him medication prescribed for depression even after his family brought it to them, leaving him to kill himself on August 17, 2014.
Surveillance video shows Debra Robton’s son mulled over how to kill himself for eight hours before hanging himself from the top bunk in his jail cell.
“It makes me very angry, very, very angry, and so sad,” Debra Robton, Yoel’s mother told WSB-TV in Atlanta.
She still hasn’t watched the video of her son’s death.
“It did not have to happen. It should not have happened,” she said. “He was just a very loving, loving kind soul.”
Recorded footage from Robton’s cell shows him slipping a makeshift noose over his head several times and sitting on the floor to test it, pacing and appearing anxious.
Jailers who claim they checked their video monitors did not notice the noose tied to his bed or his depressive behavior.
Time went on.
At about 5 p.m., video shows a jailer delivered food to Yoel’s cell; but he did not notice the noose tied to his bedpost.
At about 8:30 p.m., Yoel Robton hung himself with his blanket from the bed in his jail cell.
Jailers responded 18 minutes later.
Robton died in the hospital during the next few days.
Debra Robton had seen her son at a low point like this once before and knew the seriousness of his illness.
That’s why she brought his meds to the Doraville city jail after he’d been arrested on a warrant after a fender bender.
But jailers never gave him the prescription.
Following Yoel’s death, an internal investigation found jailers violated mandated city policies.
Jailers are supposed to conduct mandatory cell checks three times an hour.
The investigation indicated that due to staffing shortages cell checks were mostly done by glancing at video monitors instead of checking in person.
Debra Robton says if check ups had been done according to policy, things might have been different.
Someone might have noticed her son’s behavior and prevented his death.
In October of 2014, the city recommended changes like changing the blankets to a brighter color so they’d be more noticeable to jailers, adding staff to allow more check ups and cutting the tops off bunk beds.
Jed Manton, Debra Robton’s attorney indicated that’s not enough.
“You have to provide them their medication. You need to be checking on them. These are basic things that need to be done,” he said.
The city of Doraville waited two years to release details of their internal investigation into Yoel’s death, but settled quickly after.
“They knew that within months of this happening,” Manton said.
“So the delay of dragging it out for this much time . . . unnecessarily putting this family through the additional grief. It’s a shame.”
“When you put people in a cell, there are basic things humanity demands be done — you’ve got to give them medication; you’ve got to check on their well-being,” Manton told myajc.com.
“It was a series of tragic decisions that led to this result. At a minimum, there were 15 different opportunities where they were required to go check on Yoel, any of which would have revealed a self-made noose hanging from a bunk.”
Debra Robton says she’s glad changes have been made, but nothing will bring back her son.
“I just wish he were here. One more hug. ”
The Doraville police chief, mayor and city manager issued a statement saying they are still deeply saddened by what happened, but still have not provided any records showing whether or not any employees were ever disciplined for neglecting to follow city policy.
Nationwide, suicide has been the leading cause of death in local jails every year since 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Justice statistics.
Video Timeline (from myajc)
11:58 a.m.: Robton rips off the leading edge of the wool blanket approximately 8 inches in width and the length of the blanket, approximately 72 inches of fabric.
12:01 p.m.: Fashions the strip of blanket into a noose and ties the noose onto the top bunk railing.
12:02 p.m.: Conducts a test fit of the noose by placing his head through the noose.
12:10 p.m.: Robton makes his first suicide attempt, but too much body weight is supported on the floor.
12:24 p.m.: Places head in noose. Second suicide attempt by sitting on floor for 18 minutes.
3:12 p.m.: Checks the sturdiness and anchoring of the bunks.
5:06 p.m.: Returns to the noose, pulls down on it, walks away.
5:13 p.m.: Unties noose, removes it and tosses it on the floor in between the bunk framing.
6:22 p.m.: Two inmates placed in the cell.
6:54 p.m.: One inmate removed.
7:36 p.m.: Second inmate removed.
8:09 p.m.: Retrieves noose, makes adjustments to length, re-ties it to top bunk frame.
8:27 p.m.: Grabs noose, stands in front of it holding it in his hands for two minutes.
8:31 p.m.: Places noose over head, tightens it around his neck.
8:48 p.m.: Jailer enters cell and begins to untie noose from bunk frame and calls for help.