SALT LAKE CITY -- Authorities investigating the death of an inmate who won a $1.4 million judgment after being raped by a prison guard say they found no sign of trauma on her body or foul play at her cell.
Priscilla Elizabeth Chavez, 29, was found dead at Utah State Prison on Friday. She was being held on charges that returned her to prison nearly a decade after a guard took her to a secluded gate house and "viciously" raped her, court records say.
Louis Poleate was sentenced in 2003 to five years on a reduced rape count, court records show.
Chavez collected little of the court judgment. Federal-court records show a March 2010 letter demanding Poleate pay the $1.4 million was returned by Kane County jail as undeliverable, apparently because he had served his time and been released years earlier.
Chavez was awarded the judgment in February 2010. Her lawyer, Randall G. Phillips, didn't return a message Tuesday from The Associated Press. Poleate's whereabouts were unknown.
Her death alone in a cell Friday remains unexplained, although family members told Utah newspapers they believe she was the victim of neglect or retaliation. They said Chavez had medical and mental-health problems, was being heavily medicated and had heart trouble just weeks ago.
"They could have saved her life," her mother, Irene Chavez, told The Salt Lake Tribune. "They let her die. I am so upset. I knew she was going to die."
Chavez's body was sent to the state medical examiner to look for answers about her death that could take several weeks, police Detective Levi Hughes said Tuesday.
"There's nothing we've learned," Hughes told The Associated Press. "There's nothing suspicious about her death."
Hughes said there were no signs of a beating and that video surveillance outside her cell around the time of her death yielded no clues.
The Utah Department of Corrections settled a separate lawsuit over the 2001 rape case for $25,000 without acknowledging fault, assistant Attorney General Scott D. Cheney said Tuesday.
The Corrections Department issued a statement expressing condolences to the Chavez family and pledging its cooperation in the investigation into her death.
Chavez had been in and out of state custody since her teens and was often accused of assaulting youth counselors, mental-health-workers, police or jailers, according to family members and court records.
Chavez won her judgment just days after being sent back to prison by Ogden courts on a long list of charges, chiefly assaults against police dating back to 2007.