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Officials dispute mother’s claim in jail birth death

JONESBORO — An internal investigation into a premature delivery inside the Clayton County Jail shows contradictions between witnesses and the inmate who gave birth to the male fetus, the Clayton News Daily has learned through an open records request.

The fetus died about 75 minutes after the 4:15 a.m. birth. An autopsy of the 24-week fetus by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation reportedly showed it had “characteristics consistent with a genetic abnormality.” GBI officials also stated in the letter to the Clayton Sheriff’s Office that “results for confirmatory tests are pending.” The cause and manner of death are also pending, stated the letter.

The mother, DeShawn Nicole Balka, 25, filed a civil lawsuit June 26 seeking damages in Clayton County State Court. Balka alleges in the suit that the jail failed to properly document her condition as pregnant; failed to supply her with adequate nourishment and hydration; failed to provide proper medical attention and medications; failed to perform proper fetal monitoring and failed to provide adequate living conditions within the jail.

Sheriff Kem Kimbrough released the internal investigation report into the birth in response to an open records request filed by the Clayton News Daily. The investigation appears to contradict Balka’s claims. Kimbrough would not comment on the case. However, the report exonerates the staff of any violations of the office’s Rules and Regulations or of the Justice Bureau’s Standard Operating Procedures, stated Maj. Robert H. Sowell.

Balka was locked up April 18 after violating her probation by smoking marijuana, according to Clayton Superior Court records. She was serving probation for possession of marijuana and tampering with evidence. According to the investigation, Balka was examined by the medical staff when she was booked in. She reportedly told the staff she was about five months pregnant. Balka, who was a nursing student, was housed in the infirmary because her pregnancy was considered high-risk.

Two days later, the medical staff cleared her for housing in the general population, according to the report.

Balka shared a cell with two other women, both of whom provided statements about the early morning of April 28 when she went into labor. Cellmates Rachael Mitchell and Tonda S. Hall, told deputies they heard Balka trying to use the bathroom about 2:30 a.m. Hall blamed the hot meal they’d ingested the night before and teased Balka about it, according to her statement.

But about 4:15 a.m., Hall said Balka asked for help.

“’She stated ‘You all need to call the nurse’ and I said ‘For what?’” Hall reportedly told deputies. “’Then she said ‘My baby is in the toilet.’ That’s when I jumped out the top bunk and ring the bell for help. The door opened in less than five minutes. Thank God for Mrs. (Deputy Beverly Chevonne) Vinson.”

Mitchell said she heard something fall into the toilet and Balka say, “’The baby in the toilet.’”

Balka also alleges in her suit that her request for medical help April 26 was ignored. However, the report shows Balka was seen that day by a mid-level provider who prescribed antibiotics and a diet supplement.

In her statement to deputies, Balka alleges she asked “all week long” to be placed in the infirmary because she was feeling dehydrated.

“ ‘None of the guards believed I needed to be there,” she stated. “ ‘I asked to see the midwife or the doctor and I couldn’t Friday night. I wasn’t feeling well.’ ”

Balka asserts it took guards 10 to 15 minutes to respond to her cellmates’ calls for help.

The county has 30 days in which to respond to the lawsuit.