The mother of a woman who sustained fatal injuries while in the custody of the Graham County Sheriff’s Office has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county and sheriff’s office.
The complaint was filed June 9 in Maricopa County Superior Court on behalf of Deborah Sanchez. It claims that sheriff’s personnel “were negligent in failing to transport Jorden Simms in a safe and reasonable manner” and that negligence rises to the level of “gross negligence.”
Simms, 28, was arrested by a Safford Police Department officer on an outstanding Yavapai County warrant on Dec. 21. Two days after being booked into the Graham County Jail, Simms claimed her arresting officer had sexually assaulted her, and DPS launched an investigation at the request of SPD.
On Dec. 24, Simms alleged a female detention officer sexually assaulted her upon her return from a Sierra Vista advocacy center where she’d undergone a rape examination. Simms underwent another rape exam Dec. 26, and while there, began to complain of abdominal pain. She’d also complained of pain while at the jail.
Simms was on her way to Mount Graham Regional Medical Center for a CT scan when she removed her handcuffs, belly chain and ankle restraints and jumped from a moving GCSO vehicle, officials have said. She was flown to a Tucson hospital and died from her injuries two days later.
According to reports released in April, a deputy reported noticing “the child lock was not engaged and down in the unlock position” following Simms’ jump. Authorities have said GCSO staff loosened Simms’ ankle restraints after she complained they hurt. They also indicated a small tube of shower gel with an open cap that matched the type used at the Sierra Vista facility was found in the rear of the transport vehicle.
The lawsuit makes no allegations in regards to Simms’ sexual assault claims; it simply mentions she was being transported for a sexual assault examination.
The family also filed a $5 million Notice of Claim against the City of Safford on June 11.
Arizona Department of Public Safety crime lab analysts were unable to make any conclusions after analyzing the rape kits that were performed on Simms.
Tucson attorney Daryl Audilett, who represents Graham County, said Monday afternoon it is his policy not to comment on pending litigation.
Graham County Undersheriff Jeff McCormies and Safford Police Chief Glen Orr said the DPS investigation into Simms’ allegations are in the review process.
Sanchez is seeking unspecified general and special damages.
Reporter David Sowders contributed to this report.