Lab testing is expected to confirm whether Edward Christian Engel died from heroin that he obtained inside the Benton County jail.
Engel, 42, was taken to Trios Southridge Hospital in Kennewick at 8 p.m. Nov. 10 by jail staff after appearing ill with low blood pressure, said Sheriff Steve Keane.
“Engel advised the heroin was obtained by bartering it from another inmate, who had illegally smuggled it into the facility,” Keane said. “Engel’s condition deteriorated, and it was determined that he was suffering from a number of blood clots and other medical complications, presumably caused by the heroin use.”
He died the next day at noon.
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Benton County Coroner John Hansens said there were no signs of physical trauma, and to determine the cause of death requires a pathologist to review Engel’s blood for drugs and illnesses. The results of the toxicology investigation are expected in six weeks.
Engel entered the jail in September of 2015 on suspicion of unlawful imprisonment, felony harassment, interference with the reporting of domestic violence, first-degree burglary and obstructing a law enforcement officer.
Unfortunately, there has been contraband in jails since there was a jail.
Sgt. Bob Brockman
Bail was $75,000, and a year later the court ordered him to submit to an evaluation to determine sanity and if he suffered from diminished capacity, according to court records. The charges were dismissed Monday.
Investigators are working to determine how the drug was brought into the jail. Sgt. Bob Brockman said the procedures for searching people being booked varies depending on the suspected crime.
“They can’t strip search everyone, by law,” Brockman said. “Unfortunately, there has been contraband in jails since there was a jail.”
People arrested on driving offenses or warrants for failing to comply with court orders are not searched in the same manner as a person arrested for possessing narcotics.
The jail houses on average 550 people, with some inmates being held for the U.S. Marshals Service and the state Department of Corrections.
Few inmates die while incarcerated, Brockman said. The last was determined to have taken too many drugs before being booked into jail.
“We like to believe it is not common,” Brockman said.