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Husband sues Niagara County, medical services firm over wife’s jail suicide in 2014

LOCKPORT – The husband of a woman who hanged herself in her Niagara County Jail cell 15 months ago has filed suit against the county and the company that formerly handled medical services for inmates.

Lisa Ann Dietz had tried to kill herself before being sent to jail, an incident apparently handled by the county Sheriff’s Office.

The suit alleges that this meant the Sheriff’s Office was aware of her suicidal tendencies.

Her husband, John J. Dietz, filed the suit in State Supreme Court just before Christmas, accusing the Sheriff’s Office and Armor Correctional Health Services of failing to adequately care for and monitor his wife.

The 41-year-old woman hanged herself in her cell at about 3:30 p.m. Oct. 8, 2014. After being rushed to Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston, she was transferred to Erie County Medical Center, where she died Oct. 12, 2014.

Attorney Laurie A. Baker, who filed the suit, said she has not yet received full information from the Sheriff’s Office about how the hanging occurred. The Sheriff’s Office released no details at the time and did not respond to a Buffalo News request for comment.

County Attorney Claude A. Joerg said the county would not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit accuses the Sheriff’s Office and Armor of failing to adequately supervise Lisa Dietz and not providing her with appropriate treatment before the hanging.

The News reported that Dietz was sent to jail Sept. 9, 2014, after being removed from a court-supervised drug treatment program.

Dietz, who had a history of drug abuse, had been admitted to the program after she pleaded guilty to third-degree burglary for a break-in that occurred March 16, 2013, in Hartland.

However, in August 2014, Dietz was arrested and charged with several burglaries in Orleans County. She also was charged with possession of drugs and a weapon, a box cutter.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. read a report that said Dietz tried to kill herself in August 2014 by taking an overdose of painkillers and slashing her wrists.

Her husband reported her missing, and officers tracked her cellphone to locate her. She was found unconscious in a field.

Kloch removed Dietz from the diversion program and scheduled her for sentencing Nov. 5, 2014, on the original burglary charge. She could have been sent to prison for as long as seven years, but Kloch never had the chance to pass sentence.

Besides her husband, Dietz was survived by two children, a son, Dustin, now 13, and a daughter, Mallory, now 11.

The county dropped Armor as its jail medical contractor in October 2015. Armor took over in December 2012, and within its first two weeks, two inmates died in their cells from what a state report said were pre-existing conditions that were not properly treated. The county and Armor were sued over both deaths.

The daughter of Tommie Lee Jones, who was denied medications for heart disease and emphysema, collected a $100,000 settlement from Armor last year. The county paid nothing because of an indemnification clause in Armor’s contract, and Armor also eventually paid the county’s legal bill of more than $22,000, although a delay in that payment caused the county to sue Armor.

A lawsuit over the December 2012 death of another inmate, Daniel Pantera, remains unresolved.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com