Local News

Highlands County inmate dies in jail

SEBRING - The Highlands County Sheriff's Office will conduct an investigation into the death of a 42-year-old prisoner at the county jail, a press release issued Friday said. John Gonzalez, 42, of Lake Placid, was pronounced dead in his cell in the medical unit of the Highlands County jail, the press release said. Authorities said that Gonzalez was found unresponsive in his cell at about 10 p.m. on March 7. Emergency medical technicians, who were called to the scene, pronounced Gonzalez dead soon after. An autopsy was conducted, but found no trauma or signs of other factors that would have caused the death, the press release said.
Authorities are awaiting the results of a toxicology exam. She also said the sheriff's office began an administrative review "by policy of the in-custody death to evaluate all policies, standard operating procedures and protocols to ensure a through assessment of the circumstances, care, and response provided to Mr. Gonzalez." Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton said the family was notified and "we are saddened for them and we commit to a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Gonzalez's death." No other prisoner deaths have occurred during the past two years, she said. Gonzalez was in the Highlands County jail on charges of third-degree grand theft, dealing in stolen property, criminal mischief, burglary of an occupied dwelling and driving while license suspended or revoked. Since 2007, he's been arrested several times on theft and driving violation charges, records show.