SLO County Jail inmate kills self shortly after suicide watch ends, family says; attorney demands records

Posted at 12:19 AM, Sep 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-15 03:19:58-04

A 47-year-old Arroyo Grande man who allegedly hanged himself in the San Luis Obispo County Jail in early September had been on suicide watch prior to his death, according to the family attorney.

Paula Canny, a Bay Area-based lawyer, says her firm, on behalf of Michael Wayne Nonella’s family, sent the county a letter Friday legally requesting all records, including video from the jail, be preserved as evidence in possible future litigation.

According to information released by the sheriff’s office on Sept. 1, 2018, Nonella committed suicide in his single occupancy cell. Correctional deputies reportedly found him hanging by bedding and unresponsive during a scheduled check of inmates. Life-saving measures, including CPR, were unsuccessful.

Nonella had been in custody since July 25, 2018 for violating his post-release supervision. He was projected to be released from custody on October 6.

Canny told KSBY News Friday evening that Nonella had tried to commit suicide while in custody previously.

“[Jail staff] should have moved Mike after his first suicide attempt to a county psychiatric heath facility where he could have received appropriate treatment,” she said.

Canny says there was a “suicide note” found in Nonella’s cell. She wants the county to give a copy of it to his family. Canny says she has yet to receive other records requested regarding Nonella’s death.

In an interview with the San Luis Obispo Tribune on Friday, Nonella’s mother reportedly said her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, symptoms of which began to appear in his 20s. Judy Nonella is quoted as having told the paper, “she personally attempted to get help for him through the Sheriff’s Office to no avail.” KSBY News has not independently confirmed Nonella’s claims.

Count documents obtained by KSBY News show Nonella was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation and it was signed by a judge on August 22. It is unclear if the order was ever fulfilled.

Canny also represented the family of Andrew Holland, a 36-year-old mentally ill Atascadero resident who died in the jail in January of 2017. Holland’s death, which came after he spent 46 hours in a restraint chair, resulted in a $5 million settlement to his family.

Holland’s death and the deaths of 11 others set off a firestorm of controversy which led to a contested race for sheriff this summer. Incumbent Sheriff Ian Parkinson defeated his challenger by a large margin in the election.

KSBY News reached out to the sheriff’s office and SLO County Counsel for comment late Friday night but have not received a response at this time. Sheriff’s officials have previously declined to comment on Nonella’s case.

Nonella’s death is now the 13th in-custody death at the SLO County jail since 2012. The SLO County District Attorney’s Office is investigating Nonella’s death. The FBI has an open investigation into possible civil rights violations. The FBI investigation launched in May 2017.

On Tuesday, San Luis Obispo County supervisors will consider a plan to outsource health care services, including mental healthcare, at the jail.

Since Holland’s death, as part of a multi-step improvement plan, a chief medical officer has been hired to oversee inmate care. A new medical center with a mental health area was also just unveiled at the jail on September 5.