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GBI looking in to jail death

By Ed Brock

The investigation continues into the death of an inmate at Clayton County's jail.

Preliminary results from an autopsy show that 28-year-old Aaron Burleson of Jonesboro died Sunday night after an ulcer in his stomach ruptured, Clayton County Sheriff's Office Lt. Timothy Hanner said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is performing a standard investigation of the death, Hanner said. And Southern Regional Medical Center, where Burleson was treated and released the day before his death, is conducting its own investigation according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Riverdale police arrested Burleson on July 12 on charges of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and forgery, Hanner said. He was booked into the jail, given a medical screening and put into the general population.

By around 3 a.m. Saturday, Burleson was complaining of abdominal pain and was sent to the jail's infirmary. By Saturday evening, the doctor and staff at the infirmary decided to send Burleson to Southern Regional for treatment.

Hanner said he believes the hospital gave Burleson a gastrointestinal "cocktail" and then released him.

"They discharged him saying everything was OK," Hanner said.

Tracye Bryant, a spokeswoman for Southern Regional, said the hospital is investigating exactly what treatment was given to Burleson on Saturday night.

Burleson was taken back to the jail infirmary for observation.

"When people are in the infirmary they are checked regularly," Hanner said.

Around 8:25 p.m. an infirmary employee checked Burleson and found him unresponsive. He was taken to Southern Regional and, according to Bryant, arrived around 9:06 p.m. A doctor there pronounced Burleson dead at 9:26 p.m.

Hanner said there was a "good deal" of puss found in Burleson's stomach but the GBI's medical examiner is withholding a final cause of death until toxicology test results come back. Burleson had medication with him when he came to the jail, Hanner said, but he didn't know if the medication was for ulcers.

Sheriff Victor Hill said he would have to wait until the investigation is complete to see if Burleson was given medication for ulcers prior to his death. Hill said that right now he is satisfied with the actions of his staff.

"They did everything that they could from what the preliminary investigation shows," Hill said. "It appears he died of natural causes."

Hill could not give a time frame on the completion of the GBI's investigation. Also, Bryant could not say when the hospital would complete its investigation.

"We're trying to get it done as quickly as possible," Bryant said.

This is the first death of an inmate in the jail since Hill took office, but there have been other cases, one of which was similar to this one, under previous Sheriff Stanley Tuggle.

In January 2003, 38-year-old Kassandra Leigh Kimbell of Suwanee died in the jail infirmary from an apparent "tubal pregnancy" while she was serving 30 days in jail for a probation violation.

Two inmates have hanged themselves in the jail. Jay Harold Cockrell, 38, of Old Atlanta Road hanged himself in his cell in January of last year despite precautions taken to prevent such a suicide after the Oct. 26, 2002 suicide-by-hanging of 19-year-old Northur Burks.