Platte City woman who died in sheriff’s van killed herself, autopsy says

A medical examiner concluded that Emma Linda Lewis had intentionally overdosed on an antidepressant and cocaine, leading to her death in a Platte County sheriff’s van.
A medical examiner concluded that Emma Linda Lewis had intentionally overdosed on an antidepressant and cocaine, leading to her death in a Platte County sheriff’s van. Courtesy of the family

The autopsy of a 50-year-old Platte City woman who was found dead inside a Platte County transport van revealed Emma Linda Lewis intentionally overdosed from a combination of an antidepressant and cocaine.

The Jackson County medical examiner who performed the autopsy declared Lewis’ death on June 9 a suicide.

In late October, a special prosecutor assigned by the Platte County Circuit Court presiding judge to investigate Lewis’ death determined that no criminal charges would be filed and concluded she died of ingested drugs and a sudden cardiac arrest.

Details of the autopsy report and other findings were sealed for 30 days after Dwight K. Scroggins Jr., a prosecuting attorney for Buchanan County, made his decision public.

The autopsy was conducted by Diane Peterson, Jackson County medical examiner, and signed Sept. 9.

Platte County sheriff’s deputies had taken Lewis into custody when she refused to comply with a protection order filed by her daughter.

Antonia Ingelse had told a judge that her mother’s aggressive and sometimes violent behavior worried her, and she wanted Lewis out of the house they shared. At some point, Lewis reportedly left a voice mail message saying that she had taken all her pills and that her daughter could “sprinkle her ashes in the backyard.”

After being handcuffed that day, Lewis kicked and fought against deputies. She threatened to kill herself several times and told a deputy that she had not taken her medication for being bipolar. Inside the jail van, she banged her head against a wall.

The van driver reported hearing kicking and hitting. When the van arrived at the intake area of the county detention center, Lewis was found slumped over and not breathing. She was covered in vomit when the van arrived at the jail five minutes later. Her body was face-down on the van floor with her hands still bound behind her.

The autopsy revealed Lewis had multiple scrapes and bruises on her wrists and knees. She sustained broken ribs when paramedics tried to resuscitate her. There were no pill fragments in Lewis’ stomach. A trace of alcohol was in her system. The examination also indicated that Lewis had a head bruise.

She had the antidepressant citalopram and cocaine in her system, according to the report.

“The concentration of citalopram is sufficient alone to cause death,” Peterson wrote in the autopsy findings. “Cocaine intoxication can also cause sudden death.”

Based on the circumstances leading up to the death, Peterson concluded that “this death due to intoxication is considered to be intentional.”

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office investigated the death and turned over its reports, documents and video surveillance to Scroggins to review. A second autopsy report was done by Frontier Midwest LLC.

According to an earlier incident report, at least four deputies were present when Lewis was loaded into the van, and one deputy drove the vehicle that transported Lewis.

Documents completed by Ingelse and the sheriff’s office said that the agency had interacted with Lewis before. Her daughter wrote in her request for a protective order that Lewis had been removed from her home for violent behavior before. At least one deputy said in the sheriff’s office report that he had previously been called to the Lewis house.

Glenn E. Rice: 816-234-4341, @GRicekcstar