Nine months ago, Kellie Pearson was driving in Fall River when she got a frantic call from her daughter telling her to call the Bristol County jail immediately. Pearson dialed and got an officer at the jail.
“I knew,” said Pearson in a recent interview. “When she got on the phone, she’s like, ‘Are you driving?’ And I said, ‘I am.’ She said, ‘I need you to pull over.’ I said ‘No, no.’”
Pearson’s fiancée, Michael Ray, the father of her teenage daughter, was in that jail for 20 months, awaiting trial on charges of armed robbery.
“And I just said, ‘Please, please tell me, is Michael, OK?’ And she said, ‘I’m sorry ma’am, he’s gone.’ I just screamed this guttural scream.”
Ray was the most recent suicide in the Bristol County House of Correction.
Bonnie Tenneriello, an attorney with Boston-based Prisoners’ Legal Services, questions Bristol’s internal assessment.
“Any report on suicide that was authored by jail administrators — they have a vested interest in minimizing the problems,” she said. “An outside investigation is really a much tougher look.”
In January, Tenneriello helped three current inmates with mental illness file a lawsuit against Hodgson’s department, claiming they were subjected to harsh and humiliating punishment instead of getting treatment.