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Woman Forgotten in Cell Over Weekend

•  Political and Legal     updated  2008/03/11 20:48

A woman being held as an illegal immigrant spent four days forgotten in an isolated holding cell at a courthouse with no food, water, or toilet, authorities and the woman said.

Adriana Torres-Flores, 38, appeared in court Thursday and pleaded not guilty to a charge of selling pirated CDs, but a judge ordered her held because she is in the country illegally, Sheriff Tim Helder said.

Bailiff Jarrod Hankins put her in the cell to await transport to jail, and she was forgotten. Because of heavy snow, few staff members were in the courthouse to hear her cries and pounding later Thursday or on Friday and through the weekend.

Torres-Flores wasn't found until Monday morning when Hankins opened the door. She was treated at a hospital and allowed to go home.

The sheriff said Hankins, a bailiff for two months, simply forgot about Torres-Flores.

"He's a broken man right now," Helder said.

Hankins was placed on administrative leave with pay Monday pending an investigation. His mother said Monday he was too devastated to comment.

The cell had two benches, a metal table and a light that Torres-Flores could not turn off. She slept using a shoe to cushion her head, she told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, with 14-year-old daughter Adriana acting as an interpreter.

"She was feeling like she was going to die," Adriana said.

Torres-Flores had not eaten Thursday before going to court. She had a jacket but still was cold in the cell.

"She had to use the bathroom on the floor," her daughter said.

"It's a horrible, horrible situation," said her attorney, Nathan Lewis.

County Judge Jerry Hunton, the county administrator; the judge who ordered her held, Circuit Judge William Storey, and the sheriff issued a statement saying "immediate measures have been taken to ensure this does not happen again."

Hunton said he might install a video camera in the holding cell and an exterior light that indicates when someone is inside. "That's probably the best thing we can do to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else," he said.

Torres-Flores' trial is set for April 1, and she faces deportation by federal immigration authorities.

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