SAN DIEGO — On Wednesday, the San Diego County District Attorney has charged a second person in connection with a San Diego County inmate’s death in 2019.
The family of Elisa Serna, who was 24-years-old at the time of her passing, gathered with other families who’ve lost loved ones to in-custody deaths, along with the North County Equity and Justice Coalition on Wednesday at the San Diego County Sheriff’s Headquarters. Serna’s family said Elisa was denied medication and neglected while in custody for five days.
“She’s such a great smart girl,” said Paloma Serna, Elisa’s mother. “Loving family that loves her so much.”
“She has her child that she loves so much and she was robbed from her family, her daughter was robbed from ever seeing mother again,” Paloma said.
The family of Elisa took time to speak about her on Wednesday.
“She would give you the clothes off her back if she could, if you really needed it,” Serna’s sister said.
Paloma said her officers arrested her daughter in November 2019, at the time she said Elisa was dealing with a heroin addiction. Paloma said her daughter needed anti-addiction medication while in jail.
Paloma said, “even at one time a judge order had order to given her with and they still refused to do that.”
After five days in custody, Serna died on November 11, 2019 at the Los Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility in Santee. However, Paloma said she got three different stories about what happened.
“I found our through the clerk investigation that my daughter was found dead on the floor, her head was banged,” Paloma said. “And then with us seeing video we saw that there was even more to that, so…how can we trust them if they are doing things like this? Lying to us.”
The County District Attorney’s Office has charged nurse Danalee De Los Santos Pascua and Dr. Friederike Vin Lintig with involuntary manslaughter in connection with Serna’s death.
“Yes this is a beginning and only a beginning because many more are guilty,” said Elisa Serna’s father, Michael Serna.
“There is definitely something going on,” said Tammy Wilson, whose husband died while in sheriff’s custody.
Wilson said she also wants to see deuties held accountable. Wilson said her husband died in sheriff’s custody in January 2021 after being arrested when she called for mental health assistance.
“Omar was my very best friend. He was someone I could depend on. He was a beautiful person inside and out, had a beautiful smile,” Wilson said.
Wilson, like the Serna family wants closure.
“It doesn’t get any easier and every time we come out here, we need to do it to get the people to know what happened,” Wilson said. ‘But it brings up all the emotions again, it makes it very raw and it’s difficult.”
“Not once have they ever reached out to answers or condolcsense, nothing,” Paloma said.
The Sheriff’s Office released a statement Wednesday following the criminal charges against Dr. Von Lintig:
On November 11, 2019, Elisa Serna died while in Sheriff’s custody at the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility (LCDRF) in Santee.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department began an investigation. The findings led Sheriff’s investigators to submit a criminal case to the District Attorney’s Office for review.
In November 2021, the District Attorney made the decision to charge Sheriff’s nurse Danalee Pascua with involuntary manslaughter in connection with Ms. Serna’s death. At that time, the Sheriff’s Department took immediate action to suspend Ms. Pascua pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.
Today, the District Attorney decided to also charge Dr. Friederike Von Lintig. She was the doctor on duty at the time of Ms. Serna’s death. Dr. Von Lintig was a contracted staff member of Coastal Hospitalist Medical Associates (CHMA), then was later employed by Correctional Healthcare Partners, Inc.
We support the District Attorney’s decision to file criminal charges in this case, which centers around the actions and decisions of individuals who were entrusted with the care of Ms. Serna. Those actions do not reflect the values or obligation of the Sheriff’s Department to keep people safe when they are in our custody.
Our Sheriff’s healthcare workers, contractors, deputies and other staff members perform at exceptional levels every day. They go above and beyond their duties, regardless of the challenges they face.
The Sheriff’s Department is committed to providing compassionate medical services for the safety, health and well-being of everyone entrusted in our care. We have and will continue to follow strict protocols for investigating and responding to allegations of misconduct.