MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Once again the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a death inside their own jail.
This marks the twentieth death to take place inside the Macomb County Jail dating back to 2012 . The number dwarfs other county jails in the area, including Oakland County which has less than half that number despite a larger population. Nick DiFranco, 28, is the latest victim. His family is angry that more hasn’t been done to date.
“What’s the problem, why is this happening?” asked Pedro Perez, DiFranco’s father. “You’d think that they’d change the protocol or something, evidently what they’re doing that not what’s happening.”
Perez said he’s hardly slept since he got the phone call Wednesday night. He and DiFranco’s fiancee — Courtney Collins — rushed to McClaren Hospital in Mount Clemens, but he never woke up.
The Sheriff declined an on camera interview to discuss the circumstances, but released a timeline of events through a spokeswoman. According to the Sheriff, the jail staff was alerted to DiFranco having some sort of reaction inside his cell — they said “within thirty seconds, jail deputies and medical staffer were tending to DiFranco.”
What has people alarmed is the question of how the substance, whatever it was, got into the jail. DiFranco had been incarcerated for more than a month. His cellmate even longer. DiFranco’s family was told that an initial toxicology screen ruled out drugs such as heroin, but they didn’t know what it was. They were told that both inmates had been given a substance from a third inmate, which they proceeded to snort before going to sleep.
Collins questions how the substance made it inside the jail. She admitted that DiFranco made a mistake, but said he’d battled an addiction and turned the corner. In the past year he’d improved immensely and the two had gotten engaged. In fact, the pair were expecting a new child this month before a miscarriage. Collins said he was a great father, and now she’s trying to figure out how to break the news to her son that he’s not coming home.
“He’s a human being who had a family,” she said. “He was loved, and I don’t think he was treated as such.”
In response to the death of DiFranco Sheriff Wickersham sent a quote listing drug usage percentages of inmates noting that “a large number of inmates continue to seek out narcotics under any means necessary while incarcerated.”
Collins — in response — asked: “Do they not care — because they’re a criminal? Regardless of what they’re in for, they’re still a human being.”
In perhaps the cruelest twist of fate Collins told 7 Action News that she received a letter from DiFranco dated more than two weeks ago. The two had been scheduled to meet the afternoon he died, but the floor was locked down — she’s still not sure if the two instances were related.
Pulling out the letter she read a section, “When I think of us, I think of growing old and having a baby.”
Tears formed in her eyes before she settled herself taking turns sharing stories about DiFranco with the man she expected to be her father-in-law. They said he would make anyone laugh, and noted if he were in the room right now the news crew would be laughing themselves.
Perez shared a story of when Nick, as a child, turned to him amid a long walk home asking, “Are we going to make it?” Before breaking down himself. Collins reminded him that DiFranco loved him more than he could ever know before gathering herself and saying to everyone in the room, “This is what hurts the most. He was so loving, and he was loved.”
The family has created a
account page for funeral costs.