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Mo. homeless woman died in jail hours after hospital arrest; is anyone to blame?

Anna Brown was found dead in a Missouri jail cell hours after being arrested for trespassing at a hospital CBS/iStockphoto

(CBS/AP) RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Mo. - Family members and activists are seeking answers in a homeless woman's death in a jail cell last September, after she was arrested for refusing to leave a St. Louis hospital where she had sought treatment for a sprained ankle.

An autopsy of Anna Brown revealed she had blood clots that migrated from her legs to her lungs, eventually killing her, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. There were no drugs found in her system.

Brown's family has hired a lawyer, and Brown's mother, Dorothy Davis, said she wants answers.

If the police killed my daughter, I want to know," she said. "If the hospital is at fault, I want to know. I want to be able to tell her children why their mother isn't here." 

A week before Brown's death, she went to three hospitals complaining of leg pain. The 29-year-old, who had lost custody of her two children, refused to leave the third hospital, St. Mary's Health Center. On Sept. 21, 2011, she was arrested for trespassing and wheeled out in handcuffs after a doctor said she was healthy enough to be locked up, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Fifteen minutes after Brown was placed in a cell, a jail worked found her dead.

Hospital officials say they did all they were supposed to do for Brown. "Our records show that, in this case, everything that should have been done medically was done properly," according to a statement.

Acting Police Chief Maj. Roy Wright said his officers had no way of knowing Brown's dire condition when they arrested her and removed her from the hospital.

"A lot of times people don't want to stay in jail and will claim to be sick," he said. "We depend on medical officials to tell us they're OK."

State inspectors working for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - a federal agency that regulates hospitals - interviewed St. Mary's staff and reviewed medical records after the newspaper asked about Brown's case.

They found that when Brown arrived at St. Mary's around 11:45 a.m. on Sept. 20, her left ankle was swollen. She was there for about seven hours, during which ultrasounds on both of her legs were negative for blood clots.

Investigators said she returned eight hours later and was discharged at 7 a.m. the next day. Three hours later, she was still there and refusing to leave. After obtaining a "Fit for Confinement" report from a doctor at 12:30 p.m., officers took her to jail.

"My sister is not here today because people passed judgment," said one of her siblings, Krystle Brown.

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