Flurry of filings after wrongful death suit moved to federal court

First-degree murder inmate died while at Canadian County Jail

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Lesley Sara Hendrix

By Traci Chapman
Contributing Writer

A civil suit filed by the husband of an inmate who died while detained in Canadian County Jail continues in federal court, as both sides provide arguments about how that matter should move forward.

Danny Yelton first filed a wrongful death lawsuit in September 2021 against the Canadian County Commissioners, Sheriff Chris West, jail administrator Kristie Carter, Canadian County Sheriff’s office and Turn Key Health Clinics in Canadian County District Court.

In that lawsuit, Yelton contended the county was negligent in connection with the death of his wife, Lesley Sara Hendrix, held in the jail since her arrest for the alleged 2015 murder of 23-month-old Isabella Little Elk.

Hendrix, 27, died Oct. 12, 2020.

A report issued by the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s office concluded Hendrix died as the result of a “flesh-eating disease, septic shock and respiratory failure.”

According to that report, Hendrix complained of leg swelling shortly before she collapsed the day before she died; she did not say she suffered pain, fatigue or chills and didn’t present with fever.

She was taken to an area hospital and died shortly after her collapse at the jail, located in El Reno, county officials said at that time.

Hendrix developed a rash on her legs the first week of October and “was not feeling well” about a week before her death, Yelton alleged; after requesting to see medical staff, the El Reno woman was told to make an appointment using a kiosk, which he alleged was broken.

During an Oct. 10, 2020, video conference with her husband and another individual, Hendrix “was not coherent” and had difficulty standing, they said.

All parties agreed Hendrix collapsed at the jail Oct. 11, 2020, and was transported to the hospital, where she died the following day.

Attorneys representing Canadian County officials in October 2021 removed the case to the U.S. District Court Western District of Oklahoma, after stating in county court filings they believed many of Yelton’s claims were federal in nature.

Since moving to federal court, the case has seen a flurry of filings – first, in the form of answers to the El Reno man’s complaint and motions to dismissed filed by the defendants; then, with Yelton filing a motion to amend and/or correct his original complaint.

All of the county defendants and Turn Key Health have requested the federal court not accept Yelton’s new complaint, which strives to allege “additional facts and allegations as to the conduct of the defendants” and remove negligence claims he made precluded by the state’s Governmental Tort Claims Act.

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BABY WAS NOT BREATHING

Hendrix was being held in Canadian County Jail at the time of her death in a pending first-degree murder case connected with Little Elk’s death. She was charged after an autopsy ruled the child’s death a homicide due to blunt force trauma, which caused a subdermal hematoma, reports showed.

Hendrix was babysitting the child Nov. 18, 2015, when officers were dispatched to a home in the 700 block of South Miles in El Reno.

According to El Reno Police Department investigator David Craig’s arrest warrant affidavit, a woman later identified to be Hendrix first called 911 about 10:30 a.m. that day “yelling in panic for Izzy to wake up.”

The call was then disconnected, Craig stated; a second call came into 911 at 10:31 a.m., the detective said.

After first speaking unintelligibly, the caller first allegedly says “Izzy” is not breathing; then she says she is breathing but she cannot wake her up.

The call prompted emergency medical technicians to head to the scene, where they discovered the 23-month-old was unresponsive.

The baby was taken by ambulance to Mercy Hospital El Reno, where tests showed she had “brain bleed,” Craig stated; after physician assistant Dan Harris advised the detective of that fact, Craig said he questioned Hendrix at the hospital. Isabella died the next day as a result of her injuries, the report stated.

Prosecutors dismissed the murder case filed against her in the wake of Hendrix’s death.

No hearings were currently scheduled in the federal wrongful death case as of press time, with the last activity recorded a Nov. 22 response by Turn Key Health opposing Yelton’s amended complaint.

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