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$2M settlement reached in death of Colorado jail inmate who had developmental disabilities: "I feel some type of justice" says mother

$2M settlement reached in death of Colorado jail inmate who had developmental disabilities
$2M settlement reached in death of Colorado jail inmate who had developmental disabilities 02:12

Mesa County has agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit, and the county jail's former medical provider will pay $400,025 in the 2014 jail death of Tomas Beauford, who lived with developmental disabilities and operated at the level of approximately six to eight years old.

Tomas Beauford (credit: CBS)

Beauford's mother, Tiffany Marsh, said of the $2 million settlement: "My heart is forever broken no number of words nor money can make this situation better. They have admitted their inaction and why my son is dead ... makes me feel vindicated," said Marsh.

According to a 2016 CBS News Colorado investigation into the case, Beauford, 24, who suffered from epileptic seizures, was not allowed to have a potentially lifesaving device in his Mesa County jail cell.

His mother said at the time that her son "was neglected to death. I did not know my son was going to die in jail." Additionally, the Mesa County Sheriff has issued a letter of apology to Marsh for her son's death as part of the settlement.

"I apologize to you and your family that your son, Tomas, died in our custody and care," wrote Mesa County Sheriff Todd Rowell. "Since 2014, we have changed our inmate medical and mental health services provider," said Rowell. "Please know we have examined and will continue to look for ways to improve ourselves, our policies and procedures to make sure that all life is respected and cared for to the best of our ability."

Tiffany Marsh

Beauford had been housed at the Grand Junction Regional Center, a Colorado state facility for the developmentally disabled. But he had become violent on a number of occasions and was jailed in Mesa County on charges of assault and unlawful sexual contact.

Beauford was severely developmentally disabled with an IQ of 52. To ease his epileptic seizures, Beauford had what is known as a Vagus Nerve Stimulator implanted in his body. It is commonly referred to as a "pacemaker of the brain" and sends electrical impulses to the brain which can stop, or lessen the severity of the seizures. Many patients wear a magnetic bracelet as part of the treatment. When a patient feels a seizure coming on, they can swipe the magnetic bracelet over the VNS implant in their chest and trigger the electronic impulses that end the seizures.

But when Beauford was booked into the Mesa County Jail, jailers took away his two VNS magnetic bracelets. An autopsy showed he died of "sudden unexpected death in epilepsy."

Other jails said at the time they had no prohibition against inmates having VNS bracelets.

David Lane, Marsh's attorney, previously said, "It was easily preventable. They need to recognize this as a medical device."

"It is in the knowing that they are wrong, and they have admitted to it where I feel some type of justice has been served," said Marsh. "I pray that this will never happen again to another family. ... I feel better knowing that others will be treated better."

The Mesa County Sheriff's Office will also place a plaque honoring Beauford in their jail. The inscription on the plaque will read:

May we never forget Tomas. May we work diligently, every day, to provide the best medical and mental health care we are able, for all those in our custody.    

Marsh told CBS News Colorado the plaque will be placed in the jail July 18, on what would have been her son's 34th birthday.

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