Pasco teen’s jail death ruled drug-related accident

Sarah Gordon

A Pasco teen’s use of synthetic marijuana lead to his death in a Benton County jail cell in March, said the Benton County coroner.

Marc Anthony Moreno, 18, died from an irregular heartbeat and dehydration as a result of the artificial cannabis, Coroner John Hansens said in a news release.

Moreno was found dead in his single cell on March 11 eights days after being brought in for warrants and disruptive behavior at a mental health facility.

Sheriff Steve Keane said Tuesday that Moreno was being given water and food but they did not know if he was drinking or eating enough.

“In my opinion, he shouldn’t have even been in jail to begin with. He should’ve been at a mental health hospital,” said Keane.

In my opinion, he shouldn’t have even been in jail to begin with. He should’ve been at a mental health hospital.

Sheriff Steve Keane, Benton County

The autopsy revealed no signs of wounds or injuries. Toxicology tests took a few months to complete.

Moreno’s family said in March the Chiawana High student was bipolar and suffered from schizophrenia.

His family said Moreno had been admitted to Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco for two days before being released March 3.

He tried to check into Lourdes Counseling Center in Richland, which provides 24-hour mental-health care, because he was in crisis, but apparently there weren’t enough beds at the facility, family members said at the time.

Moreno was then taken to the Benton & Franklin Counties’ Crisis Response Unit, which offers counseling for emergency mental health issues.

At the Kennewick facility, Moreno began acting out and the police were called.

An arresting officer described Moreno as “severely agitated.” After he was arrested on some misdemeanor warrants, he kicked the patrol car seat and spit in the car.

At the time, Keane said Moreno was evaluated twice a day by mental health staff at the jail and corrections officers checked on him more than 600 times during his eight days in custody.

Family members were upset Moreno was jailed and said they never spoke to him while he was in custody.

Keane said the family declined attempts this week to talk with them about the investigation’s conclusions.

“If we did something wrong, we take responsibility and do whatever we can to fix it,” Keane said. “Certainly (the death) wasn’t intentional.”

Sean Bassinger: 509-582-1556, @Seandood