Preliminary report says infection caused Ashley woman’s death in jail


A preliminary report from the Delaware County Coroner’s Office said Tuesday that an infection in the abdominal cavity is likely what caused the death of an Ashley woman in the Delaware County Jail Sunday night.

The autopsy on Rhianna Michelle Filichia, 38, will not be fully completed until toxicology results return from the lab, which could take between eight and 10 weeks, authorities said Tuesday.

The coroner’s report states that Filichia’s death was “most likely due to peritonitis, a potentially fatal condition resulting from an infection in the abdominal cavity. … This condition is typically caused by an infection in the intestines that then spreads into the abdominal cavity.”

Filichia’s mother, Teresa Berry, said Monday that Filichia had undergone surgery in December for diverticulitis and was having medical problems after the surgery.

Filichia was serving 16 days in the Delaware County Jail on work release, meaning she would report to the jail on Friday and be released Sunday so she could stay employed. However, she failed to report on Friday, officials from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office said.

Berry said Filichia did not report to the jail because she was in the emergency room. Officials from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office said Monday that a warrant was issued for her arrest when she did not report.

Berry said that when deputies went to her home to arrest her, her fiancé told deputies about the medical issues and begged them not to take her.

“They were well aware she had been ill,” Berry said Monday.

Berry said that when she found out her daughter had died, she contacted the Delaware County Jail and spoke to a staff member who said they noticed Filichia was ill, was having trouble swallowing pills and was vomiting a green substance.

Officials said that Filichia was declared dead after being transported to Grady Memorial Hospital Sunday at 9:11 p.m.

Hours later, at 1:30 a.m. Monday, Reynoldsburg police detective Tye Downard, 43, of Westerville, was found dead in his jail cell during hourly inmate checks. Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin said Downard hanged himself with his bed sheet in his single-person jail cell.

Martin said Monday — in keeping with the jail’s policies – a full investigation into both deaths is underway.

Downard was arrested by U.S. marshals last Thursday after authorities say he made more than 20 narcotic deliveries between October 2015 and this month, according to the Associated Press. Some of the drugs may have been seized during police investigations and included heroin, cocaine, marijuana and Percocet, the AP reported.

Martin said Monday that Downard had been evaluated by the jail psychologist when he was admitted to the jail Thursday and there were no indications he was contemplating suicide. He was not on suicide watch.

The county jail was holding Downard for the federal court.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Monday that prosecutors in Franklin County have begun dismissing drug cases for which Downard was an investigating officer.

Filichia Courtesy photo | The Gazette

By Glenn Battishill

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Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

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