Sheriff revises timeline on inmate's request for helpThe family of Daniel Schlienz says he was visibly sick throughout the weekend, and they question why his condition wasn't assessed earlier.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
As St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman backtracked on when he said Daniel Schlienz first requested medical attention in the county’s jail, family members and a friend of the dead man gave more detailed accounts of his illness going back to Christmas Eve.
Schlienz, who was accused of shooting two people at the Cook County Courthouse on Dec. 15, died Tuesday morning in a Duluth hospital about 8 a.m., when his family decided to take him off of life support.
In a statement released to the media on Wednesday, Litman said the 42-year-old Grand Marais man did not request medical help until Monday morning, not Sunday night as Litman previously told the News Tribune.
“The information today is accurate and documented through incident reports,” Litman said Wednesday. “We were able to locate the actual request filled out by Daniel. … My error was in trying to get out information quickly.”
Yet Schlienz’s father, Gary Schlienz, and sister, Bev Wolke, told the News Tribune they visited with Schlienz at the jail Saturday afternoon. Both said that he was coughing extensively.
“He didn’t look good,” Gary Schlienz said. “He looked pretty haggard.”
Since he had been incarcerated, his father said, Schlienz had complained of being cold and wasn’t allowed an extra blanket.
On Saturday, Wolke asked jail staff to provide her brother with another blanket and a cough suppressant because “he was extremely cold at night and he’s got this really bad cough,” she said. She was told that if he needed anything, he had to fill out a request form himself.
A childhood friend, Jay Wilson, visited Schlienz on Sunday afternoon. During that time, Schlienz “was coughing pretty bad at that point and at times couldn’t talk much,” Wilson said, noting he had been pressing down on his chest to stop the coughing. “He definitely had some serious issues going on. I was very concerned for him.”
Schlienz told Wilson that his chest hurt, Wilson said, and that he had asked jail staff for cough drops or medicine on Sunday morning to help with his cough but that “he could not get anything.”
He also told Wilson that his problems began after he had been Maced during the shooting incident in Grand Marais, Wilson said.
Gary Schlienz and Daniel’s mother, Ginger Berglund, who live in Grand Marais, had paid for a phone card for Daniel, Schlienz said, and they were concerned when they didn’t hear from him Sunday or Monday.
“We were hoping he was using it to talk to friends,” he said. “He called us every day otherwise.”
In Litman’s account, Schlienz was first seen by a registered nurse from the St. Louis County Jail Health Services correctional staff at about 11:15 a.m. Monday, three hours after he requested it. He was assessed and treated at that time for flu-like symptoms, including fever, nausea, vomiting and body aches. Litman wouldn’t say the method of treatment.
Schlienz was taken by ambulance to Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center about 7:45 p.m. Monday, after the shift commander and administrative staff made the decision to call 911 based on his deteriorating condition, Litman said.
Schlienz was coherent and conscious when he was taken to St. Mary’s, Litman said.
Inmates are observed every half hour, Litman said, and on the night of Dec. 25, nothing remarkable was noted regarding Schlienz. The sheriff said there was only one nurse on duty the morning of Dec. 26, and it took about three hours from the time the request process began until the nurse, who was making rounds, saw Schlienz.
“By the time (Schlienz) completed the form and was seen by the nurse … that time frame had elapsed,” Litman responded when asked why it took three hours to begin treating Schlienz.
Once Schlienz was at St. Mary’s, jail staff were alerted between 1:30 and
2 a.m. “that he was basically on life support and there wasn’t going to be a good outcome,” Litman said. At that point, Litman asked Cook County Sheriff Mark Falk to contact Schlienz’s family.
Family members received calls notifying them about Schlienz at about 3 a.m. When they arrived at the hospital to see him, both Wolke and Gary Schlienz said they hardly recognized him.
“I walked in on my brother dead,” Wolke said. “He looked so bad I started screaming and I collapsed … he was swollen and black.”
Schlienz died from disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC, Wolke said Wednesday, saying she learned the cause of death from a hospital coroner. Wolke said it’s still unclear what caused the DIC, which is a complication where small blood clots disrupt the flow of blood to organs and can lead to organ failure.
The St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy Tuesday and ruled the cause and manner of death as “undetermined” pending additional lab tests, which could take several weeks to complete. Foul play is not suspected, Litman said.
There were no signs of any injury from someone else or self-inflicted. The investigation is pointing toward a physiological or medical condition and not a traumatic cause of death, Litman said on Tuesday.
Wolke said she was unaware of any respiratory condition her brother may have had, but noted he had an undiagnosed cough throughout much of his life.
Wolke is upset that the family wasn’t notified of Schlienz’s illness earlier, and said she is concerned about the care he received while in custody and the length of time it took to receive medical care. She said she doesn’t believe staff at the jail did all they could to help her brother.
“We’re concerned about the violation of constitutional rights,” she said.
Schlienz was being held in the Duluth jail pending $2 million in bail for the Dec. 15 courthouse shooting of two people in Grand Marais. He was charged Dec. 19 in state district court in Duluth with two counts of attempted first-degree premeditated murder for the shootings of Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell, 45, and Grand Marais resident Gregory Thompson, 53. The charges could have brought sentences of between three and 20 years under state guidelines if Schlienz had been found guilty.
Schlienz’s next court appearance had been scheduled for Jan. 10. He also had been charged with assault in the fourth degree for attacking Cook County bailiff Gary Radloff, possession of a weapon by a felon and obstructing arrest. The shooting investigation remains open.
Schlienz had just been found guilty on several counts from a five-year-old criminal sexual conduct case when the shooting occurred. He had been released on continued bail after the jury verdict was announced, officials said, because he was not expected to be sentenced to incarceration.
Schlienz is a former boxer who in 2006 entered an Alford plea on charges that he sexually assaulted two 15-year-old girls and one 17-year-old girl. In 2007, he moved to withdraw the plea, a motion that was initially denied by the sentencing court. The Court of Appeals in January ruled that his plea withdrawal should have been accepted and reversed his conviction, which paved the way for the trial.