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Report: Immigrant who died in jail hanged herself

The state medical examiner's office released a preliminary autopsy report for the Salvadoran immigrant who died last month in the Franklin County jail while awaiting deportation.

Investigators have said Anna Romero, 44, died Aug. 21, but it had not been clear how she died.

Romero's family and their attorney, Matthew Pippin of Louisville, had been inquiring about the report for weeks.

According to the preliminary autopsy report, which was obtained Friday by the Herald-Leader, says Romero "hanged self by neck with sheet." It says she died of asphyxia from hanging.

The jail took Romero to the hospital late Aug. 21. She was pronounced dead on Aug. 22, according to the report.

The report, which has been given to Franklin County Coroner Will Harrod, says the manner of death is still pending because there are a number of things that are still unknown, such as a toxicology report and circumstances of death.

Romero's family had been inquiring about the circumstances surrounding her death. Last week, the family decided to seek the opinion of George Nichols II because they were concerned that officials were not aggressively investigating the case.

The Kentucky State Police also announced last week it is investigating the death as a suicide by hanging.

Romero, who came to Kentucky from El Salvador three years ago, was arrested Jan. 14 by state police after giving federal immigration officials a false identification card. Aguilar said officers were looking for another suspect when they knocked on Romero's door.

As a result of the January charges, Romero spent five months in the Shelby County jail and was transferred to the Franklin County Regional Jail in May, where she stayed the last four months. Romero entered a guilty plea Aug. 7. She was required to pay a $100 fine, but she did not receive additional jail time.

Family members say that shortly before she died, Romero was placed in isolation for refusing to eat. Aguilar said she had telephoned several times from the jail saying her stomach hurt and she was vomiting. She said the food smelled bad and that something was wrong with it.

Pippin has said Harrod told him Romero was found Aug. 21 with a sheet around her neck.

Romero's brother-in-law Mario Aguilar and other family members do not think she committed suicide. They wanted to hire Nichols to conduct a second autopsy if he finds it necessary. He has said he often can make a determination by reviewing the results of the first autopsy.