Federal law enforcement authorities have taken over the investigation into the death of a 19-year-old Chalmette woman who was found dead a month ago in her cell at the St. Bernard Parish jail, parish and federal officials said Thursday.
Nimali Henry was jailed for nearly two weeks following an arrest over a domestic dispute. She died April 1 after she was found unresponsive on the floor of her cell at about 8 a.m., not long after a shift change among jail personnel, the Sheriff’s Office said. Officials tried to revive her, but she was pronounced dead a short time later.
Sheriff James Pohlmann said the FBI contacted his office this week requesting information on the case.
“When that happens, we put a hold on our investigation and let theirs run its course,” he said. “Whatever they request, we’re going to fully cooperate with their investigation and turn over whatever records they need.”
The Sheriff’s Office had been conducting its own investigation, which was still ongoing when the FBI stepped in, he said.
Pohlmann said he has yet to receive the full findings of an autopsy that was conducted on Henry, and he declined to say whether he was aware of any preliminary findings. He declined further comment.
Mary Beth Romig, an FBI spokeswoman in New Orleans, confirmed that the agency has requested information from Pohlmann related to Henry’s death. “We are assessing the situation,” she said, declining further comment.
Pohlmann, speaking with reporters the day after Henry died, said he was unsure when a jail staffer had last passed by her cell before she was found unresponsive. “It’s a preliminary investigation at this point,” he said at the time. “We’re currently gathering facts and conducting interviews. We’ll take a look at everything, from when she arrived at our facility up until her death.”
Friends said Henry had a health condition requiring medication, a claim that Pohlmann has alluded to but not offered specifics about. At the time of her death, he said it could take up to eight weeks to receive the results of toxicology tests that were performed on Henry after she died.
The death was the first in the jail since April 2012, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Henry was arrested March 21 following reports of a disturbance involving her and the father of her 4-month-old daughter at a home in the 1800 block of Suzi Drive. She was booked with disturbing the peace, simple battery and unauthorized entry, records show.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to the reported disturbance and determined through interviews that Henry had arrived at the house uninvited and started demanding that she be allowed to see her daughter, according to an incident report. Her child’s father, Nicholas Conners, 18, was visiting there with a woman, Chelsea Lefebvre, 18, who lived at the residence.
Conners told Henry that it wasn’t a good time to see the girl, and when Lefebvre tried to intervene, the two women got into a shoving match, the report said. Conners eventually separated the two.
Henry’s bail was set at $25,000, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter @rthompsonMSY