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Denver mom sues Saguache County, alleging deputies ignored son's suicidal comments

Victim not discovered for 8 hours
Saguache County Jail booking area and cells
Posted at 11:04 PM, Mar 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 10:43:39-05

DENVER — A Denver woman has filed a federal lawsuit alleging negligence in the Nov. 16, 2019 death of her son at the Saguache County Jail.

"He was just a good kid that kind of got lost," said his mother, Sarah Lieberenz. "The opportunity to find his way back is never going to happen."

Jackson Maes, 27, was at a local establishment in Saguache County when deputies were dispatched on a call about a man who was intoxicated and who appeared depressed.

The responding deputy, Elke Wells, discovered that Maes had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear on a traffic ticket.

The warrant was for a $250 cash bond.

"What really upsets me is that if they would have let him call me, I would have sent him the money," Lieberenz said. "If they would have let him call me, I could have talked him down, like I have so many times before."

According to the lawsuit, the booking details indicate Maes was not suicidal or violent, but witness reports indicate some people heard him express acute suicidal ideations to the arresting deputy.

Once he was booked into jail, Maes apparently began banging his head on the wall of his cell.

A deputy told him to him to lay down and get some rest.

"Jackson responded by saying, 'I'm trying to kill myself,'" the lawsuit stated, and the deputy replied, "'You're trying to kill yourself, right now?'"

The deputy then got Maes some snacks.

During an interview with investigators, Shelby Shields, who works in the booking area, said they called mental health, but no one answered, and no message was left.

Video from the jail cell shows Maes reaching for a shower curtain, while deputies were socializing in the booking area.

In her recorded interview, Shields said both Deputy (Elke) Wells and then-Deputy (Miguel) Macias "feared that (Jackson) was suicidal, but nothing was ever done about it."

Her comments are part of the federal lawsuit against the Saguache County Commissioners, sheriff's office, and individuals in the sheriff's office alleging failure to supervise Maes, let him talk to a mental health professional, or have him transported to a health care facility.

The attorneys' summary states that in full view of surveillance cameras, Maes pulled down a curtain and later wrapped it around his neck.

He was not discovered for more than eight hours.

"It's tragic and unfortunate that Jackson ended up in a facility that was simply not equipped to handle some of the most fundamental and basic human needs required by our Constitution," said attorney Spencer Bryan of the law firm Bryan & Terrill, which is working with the Dormer Harpring law firm.

Bryan said the Saguache County Jail has been plagued by chronic understaffing and inadequate training for years.

He said county commissioners have opted not to spend money needed to change that.

The lawsuit states that Macias wrote in a log that he did a jail cell check, but actually didn't, and was later terminated.

Lieberenz said she could easily have paid her son's bond.

"$250 is nothing, and now his life is gone," she said. "Taken from me and from the world. His generous heart in nature is eradicated."

Denver7 reached out to the Saguache County Commissioners and was told they don't comment on pending litigation.

We also reached out to the county attorney and the county sheriff, but have not heard back.