Woman's death in jail stuns family

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By Lisa King

Ana Romero's death in August at the Frankfort Regional Jail has her grieving family members concerned about the circumstances surrounding her demise, according to the family's attorney.

Shelbyville attorney Matthew Pippin said that though her death is being investigated as a suicide, nothing about Romero's actions or state of mind indicated that she was suicidal.

"At this point, it's become a true mystery," Pippin said. "She never indicated to any of her family that she was suicidal or that she intended to kill herself, and beyond the rumor that it was suicide, we still haven't heard anything. The coroner's office told me that she was found with a sheet around her neck, and I believe that is where the rumor originated, from the way she was found."

Pippin said the family hired an attorney to act as a liason, and have not taken any actions as yet.

"They have to wait and see what the autopsy says before making any decisions on a civil suit," he said. "I think that their primary concern right now is finding out what happened to Ana."

Romero, 44, who came to Kentucky three years ago from San Salvador, was arrested Jan. 14 and charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, according to Shelby County Jailer Bobby Waits.

Her brother-in-law, Mario Aguilar, co-owner of Marimba's Mexican Restaurant, said the forged instrument in question was a falsified identification, since she was in this country illegally. She was transferred from the Shelby County jail to Franklin County in May.

Aguilar, who has been a United States citizen since 1997, said he has never heard of anyone being in jail as long as seven months just on a detainer charge, which means they are awaiting deportation.

In addition to being grief-stricken, he said he and his wife, Blanca, Romero's sister, were shocked when they were informed that Ana had taken her life.

Aguilar said his wife had just spoken to her sister the night she died, and she had not noticed anything out of the ordinary, which is strange, he said, since they were very close.

"It's a very hard thing to accept," he said. "She was a very happy person, always very positive."

Augilar said his sister-in-law was looking forward to seeing her two children and her mother again, whom she left behind in San Salvador and whom she was working to send money to so that they could have a better life.

Waits, president of the Kentucky Jailers Association, said he visited the Franklin County Regional Jail last Monday and that the staff was still very upset about the death.

"They're having a hard time with it," he said. "It's a very unfortunate thing, very sad."

Franklin County Jailer Billy Roberts did not return phone calls seeking comment on the death.

Kentucky State Police trooper Ron Turley said that at this point, the death is being ruled as a suicide, even though the case has not yet been concluded.

"It's still an open investigation until they get all the reports back from all the different people, such as the coroner's office," he said. "We don't ever close a case until all the paperwork is done."

Pippin said Tuesday that the family should have heard something from the coroner's office by now.

"I have concerns that we haven't yet seen the preliminary autopsy report that we were promised at the end of last week," he said.

Aguilar said many in Shelbyville's Hispanic community are still reeling from the unexpected tragedy.

"It's had a tremendous impact on people here," he said.