Duval County jail inmate dies 2 days after delivering baby

Inmate's dad left with sadness, anger, frustration and premature grandbaby

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The family of a Jacksonville woman who died in police custody has questions about how it happened.

Jessica Gorkiewicz died last week, two days after delivering her baby while an inmate in the Duval County jail, where she had been since December for violating her probation.

The baby, only about 3½ pounds, is in NICU at UF Health Jacksonville. The baby's grandfather said he is doing remarkably, although the child has a long road ahead of him.

Jessica Gorkiewicz had been in jail since December for violating probation. She had been arrested several times in the past, including last September on  DUI, open container and other charges. 

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said it investigates all in-custody deaths and said Gorkiewicz’s death was not considered suspicious and that the Medical Examiner ruled she died from natural causes.

Mark Gorkiewicz said his daughter's arrests shouldn’t take away from the woman that she was. He is left feeling many emotions – sadness, anger and frustration – and with questions about why and how his daughter died.

Mark Gorkiewicz said he spoke to her fellow inmates, including one who shared a cell with her who told him there was an incident with other inmates involving pepper spray while his daughter was pregnant and already having flu-like symptoms.

He was told his daughter began to complain of breathing problems because of the pepper spray in the air, but she wasn't taken to UF Health until she was found unresponsive several hours later. She had an emergency C-section at the hospital and died two days later.

"I’ve got a daughter who is 29-years-old, but I’m never going to see you again and, on top of that, there’s an infant involved," Mark Gorkiewicz said. "I always figured you raise your children and, in the latter part of your life, you enjoy them and you enjoy your grandchildren. Well, I don’t have her here to enjoy that with, and that’s really frustrating. Not to mention the loss that I feel."

News4Jax asked JSO about what Jessica’s father said and the agency said it can’t provide us with any medical information due to privacy laws.

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Digital election producer in 2022. He created WJXT.com in 1995 and managed The Local Station's website through 2021.