BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The families of Irene Rivera and Stephen Ingle gathered at the downtown Kern County courthouse on Saturday, demanding justice.
Rivera, 31, and Ingle, 37, each died while in the Kern County Jail. Authorities say the cause was strangulation by hanging.
Berta Rivera, Irene Rivera’s mom says, “I miss her so, so much. My daughter was a mother that had just given birth two and a half months prior to her daughter who she was making so many plans for, and today, she’s gone.”
The mother of Ingle’s son, Mickie Monroe, says, “He was somebody that made a mistake and he was loved; he was a father. They told us that he also committed suicide, and there is no way that it’s even physically possible.”
The families of Rivera and Ingle are alleging negligence and violation of their civil rights.
They want accountability, transparency and reform for what they say is an unusually high number of in-custody deaths.
There have been 10 inmate deaths since the beginning of the year. “We were told that he hung himself and then we were told he was assaulted by five inmates who were on lockdown pending an investigation for homicide,” said Monroe. “But two weeks after the incident I called and they said there was never and would never be a homicide investigation.”
According to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, six of the inmate deaths this year were ruled to be suicide. Rivera’s mother says she wasn’t even an inmate. “Right before she went in at 1:20 a.m., I said, “Mamas, I’ll be there to pick you up.”
“How do you end up dead within an hour of the arrest,” said Attorney Humberto Guizar. “How do you commit suicide in the custody of the Sheriff’s Department?”
Guizar says his law office doesn’t see any evidence of hanging in the deaths of Rivera or Ingle.