Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 | 6 p.m.
An inmate who was found dead at the Clark County Detention Center last week strangled herself with a sheet she tied around a toilet handle, Metro Police said.
Kathy Ritner, 46, was found dead about noon Dec. 27 after apparently using her own body weight to suffocate herself using the makeshift noose, Undersheriff Jim Dixon said Friday afternoon during a press conference addressing the incident.
Jail guard Duane Jensen, who had last checked on her about 30 minutes earlier, discovered the body and cut the sheet before calling for medical staff who unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate her.
Ritner had been behind bars since Dec. 10 for a parole violation. She was screened by medical staff the day after she was arrested but was not deemed to be at risk for suicide, even though she had a history of trying to kill herself after previous arrests.
Three days later, she got into a fight with guards and was placed in a cell by herself. The inmate became the eighth to die at the jail in the past year.
Jail officials found five other toilet handles throughout the jail’s cells resembling the one Ritner used to strangle herself — they plan to remove and replace them with safer devices, Dixon said.
According to Sun archives, Ritner was accused of attempted murder and arson in March 2011 in connection with a fire at the Valley Hospital emergency room. She accepted an agreement two months later to plead guilty to attempted malicious destruction.
On the morning of March 8, Ritner was taken by ambulance to the Valley Hospital emergency room for a medical complaint. She was examined and released.
During her stay, police said she went inside the restroom of the emergency room, set fire to a plastic waste container and left. The melting plastic created thick, black smoke and caused as much as $5,000 in damage to the bathroom wall.
When security personnel and medical staff came inside the restroom to put out the fire, smoke spread into the rest of the emergency room and forced staff to shut it down for several hours.
Later that day, investigators found Ritner in the emergency department at University Medical Center and she was arrested.