JSO: 2 unrelated deaths at detention center Tuesday

Woman, man die in separate incidents at pre-trial detention facility

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 37-year-old woman in jail on a child neglect charge and a 63-year-old man who police said took a swing at an officer after making threats at the bus station died Tuesday in unrelated incidents at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office's pre-trial detention center.

Patricia Affrunti was found unconscious about 1 p.m. during a routine wellness check, said JSO Chief Chris Butler. She was taken to UF Health Jacksonville, where she died.

According to her arrest report, Affrunti was arrested Monday on a child neglect charge after she was found unconscious in a car with the heater set on the highest setting and her child found strapped in a car seat. The child, whose temperature was 104 degrees, was taken to Wolfson Children's Hospital in critical condition, but recovered.

Affrunti told officers she had just dropped off a friend at a methadone clinic and fell asleep because she was tired, but later admitted that she had left the methadone clinic herself. Based on information from the Florida Department of Children and Families, Affrunti was charged with child neglect.

She was placed in an isolation cell because she indicated during her intake interview that she might harm herself. 

Butler said that routine wellness checks in the isolation area are performed every 15 minutes, and those were conducted on Affrunti, who was about to be released into the general population at the facility.

"There was nobody to see what happened (in the isolation cell)," Butler said.

A few hours later, Melvin Brown, who was in a mental health area on the sixth floor of the facility banged his head violently on a glass wall inside his cell until he passed out, Butler said. 

Corrections officers who had been alerted to the area because Brown was yelling and banging on a glass wall with his fists called in the medical emergency, and staff performed life-saving efforts until he was taken to UF Health Jacksonville, where he died at 4:39 p.m., police said.

Brown, an Air Force veteran, was arrested Nov. 7 on charges of trespassing and resisting an officer with violence. He had been in the mental health lockdown area since then.

Ava Bouyer, Brown's friend, said she has a lot of questions about why Brown died in custody.

"I'm going to really miss him," she said. "He was really loving and caring. He loved a lot of people."

Bouyer questioned whether Brown was being given the correct medication.

"I think it was preventable," she said. "Because they knew he had mental problems."

Attorney Gene Nichols has litigated several in-custody deaths over the years. He’s not involved in these cases but said he hopes both inmates were given the care they needed.

"The jail is responsible for people who are having mental health problems or who are having drug problems," Nichols said. "Whenever anybody is in the care, custody and control of the sheriff's office -- no matter their mental health state, no matter their age, no matter how smart they are -- the jail is responsible for them. They are responsible for their health and their safety and their well-being."

Butler said neither Brown nor Affrunti were involved in any altercations with inmates, nor any incidents in which force was used on them by corrections officers inside the facility.

The medical examiner will have to determine their causes of death.

News4Jax attempted to contact Affrunti's family for comment, but we have not heard back yet.

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