Dead inmate suit transferred to federal court

Removed from Canadian County court docket

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Lesley Sara Hendrix

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

EL RENO – A lawsuit filed over the death of a longtime Canadian County prisoner has been transferred to federal court.

The civil action, filed on behalf of the husband of jail inmate Lesley Sara Hendrix, has been removed from the Canadian County District Court docket.

The case will now be heard in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.

Attorney Stephen L. Geries represents the defendants, Canadian County Commissioners, the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Chris West, and jail administrator Kristie Carter.

The plaintiff’s suit “alleges multiple federal causes of action” under the Eighth and 14th amendments to the U.S. constitution, according to a petition of removal that Geries filed Oct. 18 in Canadian County District Court.

“As such, the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma has original subject matter jurisdiction of this case” pursuit to state law.

El Reno’s Hendrix, 27, died Oct. 12, 2020, at a hospital after suffering from a flesh-eating disorder called necrotizing fasciitis. She had been an inmate since January 2016 at the Canadian County Jail, 304 N Evans.

Attorneys for plaintiff Danny Yelton, who was Hendrix’s husband and is the administrator of her estate, filed the wrongful death/negligence lawsuit Sept. 9 in Canadian County District Court.

Named as defendants in the civil suit are the county commissioners, sheriff’s office, sheriff, jail administrator, and Turn Key Health Clinics LLC.

Neither Canadian County Sheriff Chris West nor Canadian County Commission Chairman Jack Stewart wanted to comment publicly on the pending litigation.

Lesley Sara Hendrix was housed at the Canadian County Jail, 304 N Evans, after being charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 23-month-old toddler she had been babysitting in November 2015. (File photo)
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‘SERIOUS MEDICAL NEEDS’

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff referred to the Canadian County sheriff’s “deliberate indifference” to Hendrix’s “serious medical needs.”

“There are longstanding, systematic deficiencies in the medical health care provided to those in the jail,” according to the lawsuit. “Sheriff West has known of these deficiencies and the substantial risks to inmates like Hendrix but has failed to take reasonable steps to alleviate those deficiencies and risks.

“Hendrix was not properly assessed for medical needs and conditions upon detention at the jail. Despite Hendrix’s obvious, serious, emergency medical health needs, the defendants and their employees did not transport Hendrix to a hospital, physician or other facility nor did they take any action to provide proper care to Hendrix.”

Hendrix’s trial had been delayed and she was the longest-serving Canadian County Jail inmate ever when she died.

The plaintiff, represented by Tulsa attorneys A. Laurie Koller and Eric Anthony Mareshie, is seeking punitive damages.

Hendrix was housed at the Canadian County Jail after being charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 23-month-old toddler she had been babysitting in November 2015.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the victim’s cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head.

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