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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

She Told Them She Would Kill Herself

SAN ANTONIO (CN) - A woman riding the rails with her dog, Ashes, trying to get home to Florida, told the Border Patrol that she was severely claustrophobic and if they arrested her or took her dog away, as they threatened to do, she would commit suicide. But they arrested her and took her dog away, and she hung herself with a coaxial cable in a jail cell, on live video, her family claims in Federal Court.

Border Patrolmen from the Uvalde station arrested Patulla Ebony Rohrbaugh on Dec. 10, 2010, as the rode the rails, her family says. Rohrbaugh, a U.S. citizen, told the Border Patrol she had "a small amount of marijuana in her possession," the complaint states.

"At the time of her arrest, Patulla Ebony W. Rohrbaugh informed the Border Patrol that she was extremely claustrophobic and that if she was place in a jail, she would commit suicide," the complaint states. "She also stated that if her dog, Ashes, was taken from her, she would commit suicide."

She repeated her comments about suicide at the jail, says her family: her husband, two sons and two daughters. But the Uvalde County Sheriff's Department locked her up anyway, in a cell with a TV with a coaxial table. "There was also a close-circuit TV camera in the cell."

The family says that Rohrbaugh was visible at all times on the video monitor, and that the sheriff's officers were not overworked or distracted: there was just one other person in the jail that evening. They say Rohrbaugh's suicide was "slow and thoughtful."

"The video indicates that it took Mrs. Rohrbaugh several minutes to remove the coaxial cable, find a tie-off point, place the cable around her neck, position herself, adjust the cable, and step off. All of this is captured and broadcast live as it was happening. At any point, defendants could have helped. They chose not to."

The family says Rohrbaugh "was a beautiful woman who earned her living as a catalogue model. In fact, she was traveling to Florida for that purpose when she was stopped." They say she chose that mode of travel due to a horrific childhood of abuse.

Her family seeks punitive damages from Uvalde County and its Sheriff's Office, and individual sheriff's officers. They are represented by Tim Maloney with Maloney & Campolo.

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