Weeks after Ann Salazar died in custody of Adams County deputies, loved ones still seeking answers

4-foot-11 woman died on way to jail

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. - Seventeen days after Ann Marie Salazar died in the custody of Adams County sheriff's deputies, loved ones are still seeking answers about how the 32-year-old woman lost her life.

"We can't sleep or anything, because we don't know what happened," said Ann's mother, Sally Salazar, who lives in Pueblo.

While authorities notified Ann's father that she had died on Feb. 16, Sally Salazar, who is divorced from Ann's dad, learn of her daughter's death when a relative called her that night.

Now, Ann's mother and close friends have started their own investigation, calling police detectives and traveling from Pueblo to the Adams County Coroner's Office in Brighton on a mission to learn what happened to the 4-foot-11, 130-pound woman.

On the day Ann Salazar died, things began to unravel when she and her boyfriend argued.

Ann had moved from Pueblo to Adams County four years ago. Her mother said Ann was disabled and suffered from bipolar disorder, a mental illness that causes dramatic shifts in mood and energy and can lead to recurring episodes of mania and depression.

"She was taking medicine for that. She was doing really great," Ann's mother said.

About six months ago, she moved into her new boyfriend's Conifer Road home, just north of Denver in Adams County.

Authorities said that's where Ann and her boyfriend fought on the afternoon of Feb. 16. Ann reportedly ripped a necklace from the man's neck, scratching his chest in the process, said Ambrosia Martinez, a close friend of Ann's since childhood.

Someone called 911 and deputy sheriff's arrived to investigate and question people about what happened. The boyfriend later told Martinez that deputies took photographs of the scratches on his chest and then they arrested Ann.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Paul Gregory confirmed that Ann Salazar was arrested for domestic violence and transported to the Adams County Detention Facility in Brighton.

It was on the trip detention facility that something went wrong.

Sally Salazar said she left voicemail messages for the detective who is investigating her daughter's death, but he never called back.

Finally, she reached another detective who told the mother that as deputies were driving Ann to jail, she became unresponsive in the back seat of the patrol car. The deputies pulled into a parking lot and called an ambulance.

"Was she having a seizure?" the mother asked. Sally Salazar said the detective replied, "No, she didn't have a seizure."

7NEWS asked if deputies used any force or physically restrained Salazar, beyond the use of handcuffs? 

Gregory said the sheriff's office can't comment on the on-going investigation. So he said he couldn't give details on what happened during Salazar's arrest and transportation to the jail.

"There is no internal investigation going on at this time for this incident," Gregory said. This indicates sheriff's officials don't suspect any misconduct by the deputies who had contact with Salazar that day.

The Adams County Coroner's Office said that Ann Salazar was pronounced dead at Platte Valley Medical Center in Brighton.

Martinez said Salazar's boyfriend told her that, about an hour after the deputies drove off with Ann in handcuffs, they returned to inform him that she had died.

The deputies took everyone who was present at the home -- the boyfriend, his father and the father's girlfriend -- to the substation, and questioned them until late into the night, Martinez said

The boyfriend thought the deputies suspected Ann died from an overdose, "because they kept asking him about pills. They keep asking him if she was on anything. And he's like, 'No, no, no,'" Martinez said.

While the deputies were questioning the boyfriend and other witnesses, investigators executed a search warrant at his home, according to Martinez.

What's clear is that the initial autopsy didn't reveal what caused Ann's death.

"The manner and cause of death is pending investigation," the coroner's office said in a statement Wednesday.

Gregory said, "Her cause of death is still unknown and we are awaiting toxicology reports."

The coroner's office said it can take up to 12 weeks to complete toxicology tests.

It's a long, hard wait for Ann Salazar's loved ones.

"We need answers. They're not giving us any answers," Martinez said. "They say that they have to wait for the autopsy report to come back."

Gregory said authorities want answers, too.

 "We are as interested in finding out what caused her death as everybody else is," he said.

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