FROSTPROOF — An inmate in the Polk County Jail died in his cell on Friday night, and detectives investigating the death believe it likely was triggered by a heart condition.
The inmate would not have been in jail, except that he violated his probation on a drunk driving charge by showing up at his probation office — intoxicated.
On Friday, Dec. 21, 53-year-old Stephen Harry Grimm was seen in his cell around 5 p.m. by detention deputies. At that time, Grimm was observed in his cell “with no issues,” noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the death.
Fifteen minutes later, though, inmates in the ward began yelling out to deputies that Grimm wasn’t breathing.
“Deputies immediately responded to Grimm’s cell and found him unresponsive,” Eleazer noted. “The deputies immediately called 911 for an ambulance and began performing CPR.”
But Grimm never regained consciousness, and was pronounced dead at the jail by EMS.
Eleazer said an autopsy will be conducted to determine the exact cause of death, but at this time it’s believed that Grimm died of natural causes related to ongoing heart problems. It does not seem likely, Eleazer added, that he was injured by fellow inmates.
“No foul play is suspected, and there is no trauma to his body,” Eleazer noted. “Grimm indicated upon being booked into the jail that he has suffered from a heart condition, including a prior heart attack, and had his spleen removed during the 1990s.”
Grimm, whose most recent address was 3109 Ellis Ave. in Eaton Park, was arrested by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 5 for violation of probation. The original charge, dating back to April this year, was driving under the influence.
Because he violated his probation, Grimm was sentenced to 180 days in jail, and has been in a cell in the South County Jail in Frostproof since his sentencing.
Grimm violated his probation, Eleazer noted, by failing to provide his probation officer with proof that he had enrolled in a DUI program, and for reporting to his probation office while he was intoxicated.
At that time, his blood alcohol content was .206 and .192, Eleazer noted, adding that he got tested twice.
Blood alcohol content is used by law enforcement to define intoxication and can provide deputies with a rough measure of how badly an individual has been impaired by drinking.
Although the blood alcohol limit can vary by state, 0.08 percent blood alcohol content, as measured by a breath device, urinalysis or blood test, is generally considered the legal limit.
Grimm had been arrested in Polk County on four previous occasions, including in July 2011 for DUI, November 2009 for assault, October 1993 for failure to appear in court on a battery charge, and in February 1989 for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
Although any kind of foul play is not suspected at this time, Eleazer noted that “This is an ongoing death investigation,” and it’s standard policy of the sheriff’s office to conduct an independent investigation when a county inmate dies.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office’s Administrative Investigations Section will conduct an internal review, while the Bureau of Criminal Investigations — also a wing of the sheriff’s office — is conducting the death investigation.
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