The death in custody of Elisa Serna


SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County District Attorney on Wednesday charged a second person in connection with the death of a San Diego County inmate in 2019.

The family of Elisa Serna, who was 24 at the time of her death, gathered with other families who have lost loved ones to deaths in custody, as well as the North County Equity and Justice Coalition on Wednesday at San Diego County Sheriff’s Headquarters. Serna’s family said Elisa was denied medication and neglected while in detention for five days.

“She’s such a smart girl,” said Paloma Serna, Elisa’s mother. “A loving family who loves him so much.”

“She has her child that she loves so much and she was deprived of her family, her daughter was deprived of seeing her mother again,” Paloma said.

Elisa’s family took the time to talk about her on Wednesday.

“She would give you the clothes on her back if she could, if you really needed them,” Serna’s sister said.

Paloma said her officers arrested her daughter in November 2019, when she said Elisa was suffering from a heroin addiction. Paloma said her daughter needed drug addiction in prison.

Paloma said: “Even at one point a judge had ordered it to be given to him and they still refused to do so.”

After five days in detention, Serna died on November 11, 2019, at Los Colinas Detention and Reentry Center in Santee. However, Paloma said she had three different stories about what happened.

“I found out through the clerk’s investigation that my daughter had been found dead on the floor, her head had been hit,” Paloma said. “And then, seeing the video, we saw there was even more to it, so… how can we trust them if they do things like that? Lie to us.

The county attorney’s office charged nurse Danalee De Los Santos Pascua and Dr. Friederike Vin Lintig with manslaughter in connection with Serna’s death.

“Yes, it’s a start and only a start because many others are guilty,” said Elisa Serna’s father, Michael Serna.

“There’s definitely something going on,” said Tammy Wilson, whose husband died while in sheriff’s custody.

Wilson said she also wants MPs to be held accountable. Wilson said her husband died in sheriff’s custody in January 2021 after being arrested when she called for mental health assistance.

“Omar was my best friend. He was someone I could rely on. He was a beautiful person inside and out, he had a beautiful smile,” Wilson said.

Wilson, like the Serna family, wants closure.

“It doesn’t get any easier and every time we come here we have to do it so people know what happened,” Wilson said. “But it brings up all the emotions, it makes it very raw and it’s difficult.”

“Not once did they seek answers or condolences, nothing,” Paloma said.

The Sheriff’s Office released a statement on Wednesday following the criminal charges against Dr. Von Lintig:

On November 11, 2019, Elisa Serna died while in sheriff’s custody at Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Center (LCDRF) in Santee.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has opened an investigation. The findings led sheriff’s investigators to submit a criminal case to the district attorney’s office for review.

In November 2021, the district attorney made the decision to charge sheriff’s nurse Danalee Pascua with manslaughter in connection with Ms. Serna’s death. At that time, the sheriff’s department took immediate action to suspend Ms. Pascua pending the outcome of the criminal case.

Today, the district attorney decided to also indict Dr. Friederike Von Lintig. She was the doctor on duty at the time of Mrs. Serna’s death. Dr. Von Lintig was a contract staff member of Coastal Hospitalist Medical Associates (CHMA) and later employed by Correctional Healthcare Partners, Inc.

We support the District Attorney’s decision to file criminal charges in this case, which revolves around the actions and decisions of those who have been in Ms. Serna’s care. These actions do not reflect the values ​​or obligation of the Sheriff’s Department to keep people safe while in our custody.

Our sheriff’s healthcare workers, contractors, deputies and other staff are performing at exceptional levels every day. They go above and beyond their duties, no matter what challenges they face.

The Sheriff’s Department is committed to providing compassionate medical services for the safety, health, and well-being of all persons entrusted to our care. We have and will continue to follow strict protocols for investigating and responding to allegations of misconduct.


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