Woman bled to death in Weber jail, family says in lawsuit

Published: Thursday, June 21 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

Anita Omerika, left, fights back emotions as she speaks at a press conference in Salt Lake City, Thursday, June 21, 2012, concerning her sister-in-law, Amra Miletic, who died while she was detained in the Weber County Jail in 2011. At right is Anita's attorney, Rachel L. Sykes.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — When Amra Miletic fled her homeland of Bosnia following the war, she was excited to start a new life in the United States.

"She felt so safe. She felt so laughing and singing. I remember singing together at the airport," her sister-in-law Anita Omerika said with a thick accent Thursday. "We were so happy to be here, especially (Amra) because she was a victim more than everybody else in the family."

Miletic was raped during the war, and her father and brothers were killed.

But despite her initial rejoice at leaving war-torn Bosnia, Miletic's American dream soon spiraled into a nightmare as she succumbed to the emotional toll the events in Bosnia had on her and started using drugs.

Her nightmare became worse when on Feb. 1, 2011, Miletic, 47, was arrested for investigation of obstruction of justice and booked into the Weber County Jail on an immigration hold even though she was a legal U.S. resident.

According to a 2011 press release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "A lawful permanent resident of the United States, Miletic was facing deportation due to her criminal history, which included prior convictions for cocaine possession and obstruction of justice."

By that time, she had had serious health problems for about three years that required several heart medications. Omerika says once her sister-in-law was booked into jail, however, she believes she never received her medication again. Seven weeks later, she was found dead in her cell.

Miletic's friends and family say she slowly bled to death.

"Everyday she has been telling me (on the phone), 'Anita, I'm dying.' She told me, 'I'm slowly and surely dying. No one is helping me. No one has tried to help me do something about it,'" Omerika said. "She's just screaming at me, she's yelling, she's like begging, 'Do something about it.'"

Thursday, a complaint was filed in federal court on behalf of the estate of Amra Miletic. The lawsuit contends that Weber County ignored numerous warning signs — including Miletic's own pleas for help — that should have been recognized and properly treated.

According to the suit, the medical examiner determined her cause of death was a combination of her history of "atrial fibrillation … in combination with recent blood loss from the colitis most likely caused a fatal cardiac arrhythmia."

Rachel Sykes, one of the attorneys representing Omerika, said the warning signs were obvious.

"Throughout her stay at the jail she had continuous bloody diarrhea, she was bleeding large clots of blood for many weeks before she died, chest pains, uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea," Sykes said.

The blood loss, said co-counsel Robert Sykes, Rachel Sykes' father, went untreated.

"That's like having someone cut your arm deeply enough to cause ongoing bleeding and just letting you bleed to death. And that's what happened to her, they just let her bleed to death and her blood go so low it caused a heart stoppage, for heaven's sakes. And that's outrageous they would let that go and not treat it," he said.

The Weber County Sheriff's Office declined comment Thursday, referring all questions to the district attorney. Last fall following an audit, U.S. Immigration and Customs yanked the contract to hold immigrants at the Weber County Jail.

Rachel Sykes said there were still many unanswered questions about the case. She said she had no information about the circumstances surrounding the obstruction of justice arrest.

After Miletic's arrest, she was taken to the emergency room of the University Hospital because she had been complaining of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the suit.

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