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Woman dies while in custody at Franklin County jail; family suspects overdose

While Fredreca Ford's family believes she died from a fentanyl overdose, the Franklin County Sheriff's office says that is speculation until the autopsy comes back.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mothers always remember their child’s first words. Reatha Freeman remembers her daughter’s last.

“The last thing I heard my daughter say is ‘I love you, later’,” Freeman said. “And I’ll never hear her voice again because of Jackson Pike.”

Freeman says her daughter, 29-year-old Fredreca Ford, was driving impaired. It was a violation of her parole and the rules of the halfway house she was staying in. It was a violation Freeman says Ford knew would send her back to jail.

“For my daughter to take her last breath at Jackson Pike,” she said. “That’s where she took her last breath.”

Freeman says Ford had been in jail off-and-on since she was 13 and that she struggled with addiction. Freeman says Ford was taken to the Jackson Pike Jail on June 25 and by June 26 she was dead.

“She only was there 11 hours,” Freeman said.

Freeman believes her daughter died from an overdose of fentanyl.

“The day she overdosed it was not just her,” Freeman said. “There were six at the same time.”

According to Rick Minerd, the Chief Deputy of Investigations with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, it’s speculation to call Ford’s death an overdose. The toxicology report, along with the autopsy, could take several weeks to come back. Minerd confirms Ford was found unresponsive and was taken to the hospital where she later died.

The sheriff’s office also confirms a few other female inmates did cross paths with Ford when they were in the same cell and that those other inmates overdosed and some had to be revived with Narcan. Guards also located what they believe to be fentanyl, but Minerd says it is being tested. While the matter is still under investigation, the substance did not come from Fredreca Ford, according to Minerd.

“People need to know that the system is failing,” Freeman said. “It’s failing a lot.”

The sheriff’s office says it does everything it can to prevent contraband from entering the jails, but it happens. Minerd says it happens from smuggling items inside a person’s cavity to manipulating the mail system.

Freeman knows people who have never dealt with jail or addiction have little-to-no sympathy for her or her daughter, but says Ford was loved by many and her family is devastated by this loss.

Just like it was my daughter it could be your daughter,” Freeman said. “It could be your son.”

The Sheriff’s Office says it is doing three things to help cut down on the contraband being brought into jails.

First, it is providing inmates with clothes so no one can sneak contraband into the hems and linings of personal clothes. Second, inmates are being provided with photocopies of personal mail so no one can soak the mail in a substance. Lastly, the sheriff’s office is purchasing two dogs trained to detect narcotics for exclusive use inside the corrections centers.

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