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Concerns Raised Over Young Woman's Jail Cell Death

By Abby Hancock, Reporter (Social Issues, Youth Issues, and 2 Your Health), ahancock@ktuu.com
Published On: Apr 17 2014 11:07:35 PM AKDT
Updated On: Apr 17 2014 11:16:15 PM AKDT

One week after the death of 24 year-old Amanda Kernak, a woman who shared her cell is raising concerns about whether Kernak's death could have been prevented.

EAGLE RIVER -

One week after the death of 24-year-old Amanda Kernak, a woman who shared her cell is raising concerns about whether Kernak's death could have been prevented. 

The Department of Corrections is investigating Kernak's death at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River, according to DOC spokesperson Kaci Schroeder. Eagle River hairstylist Rachelle Hamilton says there is a lot to look into.

Hamilton shared a cell with Kernak at the Anchorage Jail on Tuesday, April 8. Hamilton was in custody because she failed to complete a required anger-management course, while Kernak had been arrested for a DUI. Kernak's blood-alcohol content was over 0.3 -- nearly four times the legal limit of 0.08, which Schroeder says was too high for her to be admitted to Hiland.

Kernak had to wait at the jail with Hamilton until her alcohol levels fell.

"The whole time she was really sick. She was throwing up every five to 10 minutes," Hamilton said. "(Staff) took her out for a minute and then they were going to move her, but they couldn't because she was throwing up so they put her back in the cell."

Hamilton thinks jail staff should have done more to help Kernak.

"I didn't see her ask for help or anything, but at the same time, spending all that time with her, knowing how sick she was -- to me it felt like that was very rude," Hamilton said. "It was very dehumanizing."

Kernak was later taken to Hiland. On April 10, staff there found Kernak dead in her cell.

"I can tell you that she was not ignored," Schroeder saod. "Our guards do regular checks and she did receive the advanced intake health evaluation."

Schroeder says a health screening is completed for every individual booked, but DOC wouldn't say whether Kernak had told staff about a heart condition she had. According to Kernak's sister, Jennifer Wassillie, Kernak had suffered a heart attack last month and was taking daily medication for her condition.

On Thursday, Kernak's family attended her funeral in the village of Kokhanok, her hometown. They are awaiting autopsy results that will provide some answers into her death.

"We don't know anything. We want to see the facts of how she died and we don't have any kind of information about that because we haven't seen her autopsy," said Wassillie.

The Department of Corrections is also investigating the recent death of 20-year-old inmate Davon Mosley. He was found dead in a cell at the Anchorage Jail on April 4.