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Mother sues San Diego County after son dies of "acute water intoxication" in a jail cell

Lester Daniel Marroquin warned guards that he heard voices telling him to hurt himself. Guards found him dead in his cell from drinking too much water.
Sheriff's department investigates inmate's death at San Diego jail

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Warning: This article contains content that might be graphic or triggering for some audiences.

The mother of a man who killed himself in San Diego County Central Jail is now suing the county, alleging guards ignored her son's calls for help.

The newly-filed federal lawsuit is the latest in a string of lawsuits over jail deaths and unsafe conditions in county jails.

Alba Marroquin de Portillo says guards ignored repeated warnings that her son Lester Daniel Marroquin suffered from severe mental illness. The final sign came on May 30, 2021 when Marroquin told guards that voices in his head told him the drown himself in the jail cell toilet. Yet, despite those warnings, the complaint says that guards placed him in a regular cell with access to a toilet. Guards found Marroquin dead from acute water intoxication.

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According to the complaint, Marroquin had made a suicide attempt a number of times while in county custody yet despite this jail staff failed to ensure his safety.

Marroquin's first attempt to take his life occurred in December of 2020, shortly after he was booked into jail. During the altercation, guards shot Marroquin with a taser. According to the complaint, Marroquin ripped out the taser barb and tried to cut his throat. After the suicide attempt, guards placed him in a safety cell.

Then in January 2021, Marroquin again returned to a safety cell after he was found repeatedly bashing his head against the cell wall. At the time, he said voices in his head told him to do it.

Over the course of the next several months, Marroquin repeatedly was placed in safety cells because of self-harming behavior. Those instances included Marroquin trying to hang himself with his shirt and strangle himself with a towel.

Despite the numerous attempts, guards removed him from the safety cell and placed him in solitary confinement, one equipped with a toilet.

Hours after getting placed there, guards found Marroquin dead. The medical examiner ruled his cause of death was self-inflicted.

The new lawsuit comes three months after a state audit report blasted San Diego County for what auditors found were unsafe and unsanitary conditions inside county lockups. The audit revealed that 185 people died in custody from 2006 through 2020. State auditors said a lack of medical and mental health training likely contributed to a large number of deaths. 

RELATED: State auditor issues scathing report on San Diego County jail deaths

WATCH RELATED: State audit blasts county over unsafe conditions in county jails.

In March of this year, a jury awarded $85 million to the family of one man who died after deputies tased him and placed a sock over his head as he was in the grips of a mental health episode.

State lawmakers are also now considering a bill with the goal of improving conditions inside local jails.

CBS 8 reached out to the Sheriff's Department for comment. The department declined, citing pending litigation.

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