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Wife of mentally ill inmate who died in SLO County jail files wrongful death claim

Posted at 8:48 PM, Apr 22, 2018

The wife of a mentally ill man who died in the San Luis Obispo County jail last November is now seeking damages from Sheriff Ian Parkinson, County Health and other local officials. 
 
Margo Benson-Hammer claims her husband died wrongfully because of poor treatment in the jail. 
 
Benson-Hammer’s claim was filed Friday and states her husband, 62-year-old Russell Alan Hammer of Hanford, did not receive the mental health treatment he needed. 

San Luis Obispo County officials have not released a statement in response to Benson-Hammer’s claim. 
 
Hammer was booked into jail on Nov. 6, 2017, accused of stabbing his wife in a Morro Bay RV park
 
On Nov. 27, 2017, Hammer told a correctional deputy at the jail he was not feeling well. While medical personnel were in the process of taking Hammer to the medical unit, he suddenly lost consciousness and died
 
An autopsy report found Hammer died of natural causes. The coroner’s report stated he died of a pulmonary embolism due to deep vein thrombosis in his left calf. 
 
Hammer’s death was the twelfth at the jail since 2012. Some of the deaths prompted an FBI investigation, most notably, the Andrew Holland case. 
 
Now, the attorney for the Holland family, Paula Canny, is representing Hammer’s wife in her claim. 

Canny provided KSBY News with a copy of her client’s claim. 
 
Benson-Hammer alleges in the claim Morro Bay police officers and Sheriff’s deputies should have known her husband was "experiencing a mental health crisis" and he should have been given treatment through county mental health. 
 
Benson-Hammer says Hammer was "hearing voices telling him to stab his wife." Doctors who assessed him at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center determined he suffered from psychosis and dementia. 
 
When Hammer was booked into SLO County jail, he was placed in a solitary cell and was not given his necessary medications, according to the claim. 
 
Hammer was transferred to the county Psychiatric Health Facility two days later, where medical staff noted he was unsteady, weak, mentally unstable, suffering from pre-existing Parkinson’s disease, among other medical issues. 
 
Despite his feeble mental and physical health, Hammer was returned to the jail on Nov. 10, 2017. 
 
On Nov. 27, 2017, Hammer died in county jail. Hammer is survived by his wife and two adult sons. 
 
The claim is seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages Hammer’s wrongful death, funeral expenses, loss of familial relationship, loss of economic support, emotional distress, distress of unwanted publicity, pain and suffering, legal fees, therapy costs for surviving family members, and "injunctive relief," calling on jail officials provide better healthcare for inmates.