Editor’s note: This story was updated Dec. 20, 2017, to include the result of an independent investigation into Max Toledo’s death.
FARMINGTON — The pain struck so deep, she couldn’t drive through Farmington again for weeks.
And not until now, nearly a year later, has she summoned the emotional strength to start asking questions about what happened to her brother.
“They said that they found him hanging in his cell,” Maxine Toledo said.
That’s what she was told by the hospital.
The Lakeview staff told her they “put him in an induced coma because of brain swelling,” she said. “They had him on a ventilator, and he never woke up.”
SIX DEATHS IN DAVIS COUNTY JAIL IN 2016
Max Toledo’s death is one of six now confirmed as having resulted from injury or other causes inside the Davis jail in 2016.
Three other deaths were by hanging, including one four days before Toledo’s. Otherwise, a woman picked up for failing to appear in court on a vehicle misdemeanor died of apparent medical causes and another suffered a fatal injury in a fall from a top bunk.
Maxine Toledo said she hasn’t talked to or heard from the Davis County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the jail.
Asked about Max Toledo, Sgt. DeeAnn Servey, the sheriff’s office spokeswoman, said by email, “Max Toledo was booked on 8/24/2016 and released on 8/26/2016 via Court Order. The Sheriff's Office cannot comment on his mental or physical health due to HIPAA regulations.”
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Sheriff’s reports obtained Thursday with a public records request said jail personnel found Toledo hanging in his cell at 6:34 a.m. Aug. 26.
In an interview, Maxine Toledo said she hopes to “talk to the investigators and see what happened … because a lot of it doesn’t make sense.”
State records show the jail filed in 2nd District Court on Aug. 26 a notice to Max Toledo of a promise to appear in court. The notice was generated at 6:54 a.m. and signed by a jail sergeant.
The defendant’s signature line was blank.
At that time, according to Farmington Fire Department ambulance records, paramedics were performing advanced life-saving efforts on Toledo.
Fire Chief Guido Smith said county dispatch called for an ambulance at 6:35 a.m. “for a possible hanging.”
The city ambulance arrived at the jail at 6:40 a.m. and left at 7:06 a.m. with Toledo aboard. They arrived at Lakeview at 7:20 a.m., said Smith, quoting from the report.
Maxine Toledo said the hospital gave vague information to the family about Max’s injuries, and his personal effects were sparse.
“We thought maybe he might have written some kind of a note,” she said.
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MISSED COURT APPEARANCE IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASE
Court records show Max Toledo was charged with seven misdemeanors after a June 11, 2016, incident. A Layton City probable cause statement said he committed domestic violence assault in the presence of a child. He was cohabitating with the victim, the document said.
A month before, Toledo pleaded guilty to criminal mischief for an April 9 incident.
Later in June, Toledo posted $5,000 bail and was released from jail. But he failed to appear in court July 5 for the domestic violence case, so Layton issued an arrest warrant, leading to sheriff’s deputies picking him up Aug. 24 and taking him to jail.
According to sheriff’s reports, a jailer found Toledo lying on the floor of his cell at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 26 and asked the inmate if he was OK. Toledo eventually stood up, mumbled and was told to get back on his bunk, the report said.
He was found hanging during cell block medical checks at 6:34 a.m., reports said. He was last seen OK in his cell 15 minutes earlier, according to the reports.
PUNCHING CELL WALLS, FINGERS BLOODY
A sheriff’s deputy wrote in one report that jailers had seen Toledo punching the walls of his cell during the night and he kept asking to be let out. When he was found hanging, two fingers on his right hand were bleeding and blood was smeared in the cell.
Toledo refused breakfast, one jailer wrote in his report. The report, unlike others, did not list a time for the breakfast refusal.
“I also noticed that his hands were bleeding,” the report said. “When med pass came by, I started talking with the nurse to see if I could put him on the mental health list, and that is when (jailers) found Toledo hanging,” the jailer wrote.
A sheriff’s report said as paramedics continued CPR, Toledo’s heart resumed beating on the way to the hospital.
Hadley Alvey, Lakeview spokeswoman, confirmed Toledo died at the hospital but said she could give no other details.
A state autopsy report listed the death as suicide by hanging. It said Toledo had “a history of suicide attempts and struggles with depression.”
Maxine Toledo, 35, said she was close to her older brother.
“My brother always was a very strong person who had overcome a lot of stuff,” she added.
Max Toledo was buried in New Mexico, the family’s home state.
Returning home to Layton, driving past the jail, “It felt like I was just hit in the gut,” she said. “The pain was unbearable.”
“It took me two more weeks to drive by the Farmington jail,” she said. “I didn’t go into Salt Lake.”
For months, she thought about trying to learn more about Max’s passing, but always concluded “my heart’s not strong enough.”
“But now I want to know what really happened,” she said. “This was a human life. He was someone’s brother, father, son, nephew, uncle.”
Sheriff’s reports said the Farmington Police Department was called in to do an independent investigation. The city’s investigative report corroborated details of the sheriff’s reports of the incident but made no independent conclusion about the death.
Only one of the six jail deaths in 2016 was announced publicly by the sheriff’s office. Flint Harrison, a murder suspect, hanged himself July 25, a press release said.
State law does not require jails to publicly note in-custody deaths.
Those thinking of harming themselves have several resources available:
Weber Human Services emergency or crisis services, 801 625-3700.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255
National Alliance on Mental Illness Utah, 801-323-9900
Family Counseling Service of Northern Utah, 801-399-1600
Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital Behavioral Health, 801-387-5600