HILLSBOROUGH — The Orange County Sheriff's Office is conducting an internal investigation into the death of an intoxicated woman placed in jail early Saturday morning.
Capt. Archie Daniel, head of investigations for the department, said Margaret Dale Kersey, 58, fell asleep in a patrol car on the ride from her sister's home outside Carrboro to the Orange County jail.
Officers placed her in a holding cell at 12:49 a.m. while a magistrate processed her arrest warrant, and jailers found her unconscious at 1:13 a.m. Emergency responders found her in cardiac arrest and pronounced her dead at the scene.
Daniel declined to say whether Kersey had walked into the jail under her own power.
"I can't answer any questions from the point that they got to the jail," Daniel said.
Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass said the internal investigation won't be complete until the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner releases Kersey's autopsy report in late June.
Pendergrass declined to name the deputies or release his department's policy manual. He said the investigation will determine whether two deputies followed protocol while Kersey was in custody. The News & Observer has formally requested a copy of the manual.
"It's not anything we want to hide," Daniel said, adding that both deputies remain on active duty. "Everything we do follows our policies and procedures."
Daniel said the deputies offered to drive Kersey to a hotel or motel from the home where her sister had had her removed. Kersey declined, he said, and unsuccessfully tried to call a friend to pick her up. Deputies did not think she needed medical attention, Daniel said.
"They could smell alcohol. They knew she'd been drinking," he said. "She told them she'd had one beer."
Approached at the home on Bethel Hickory Grove Church Road, Kersey's sister declined to speak on the record. Daniel said he could not discuss what he knows about Kersey's medical history.
Daniel said Kersey fought both her sister and the deputies.
"They actually had to cuff her and put her in the back seat," he said. "She actually laid down, and she snored."
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