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Romero's death in jail to be reviewed

Franklin Commonwealth's Attorney Larry Cleveland said Tuesday that he will review the Kentucky State Police investigation into the death of a Salvadoran immigrant at the Franklin County Regional Jail to see whether further action is warranted.

Ana Romero Rivera, 44, was awaiting deportation at the jail when she died Aug. 22. Family members said that she had been placed in isolation for not eating just before her death.

"It's a curious matter when anyone dies in custody," said Cleveland.

A preliminary autopsy report said that Romero hanged herself with a sheet.

"I don't have the resources to conduct my own investigation," said Cleveland. "I will ask for the state police files when they complete their investigation."

Cleveland has the authority to ask for a grand jury review of the case.

Earlier this month, a Bourbon County grand jury indicted the county jailer and his deputy on a number of charges, including some stemming from allegations that staffers had tampered with documents related to the death of an inmate.

Cleveland said he had not yet talked to Kentucky State Police about their investigation.

"We're investigating all the facts surrounding the case," said Trooper Ron Turley, spokesman for the Kentucky State Police at Frankfort. The investigation "so far indicates it's a suicide," he said.

Franklin County Jailer Billy Roberts did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

The preliminary autopsy report, released earlier this month by the state medical examiner's office, says that Romero died of asphyxia by hanging.

The report says the manner of death is still pending because the results of the toxicology report and the circumstances of death are unknown.

Family members and advocates have called for an investigation of Romero's treatment in the jail, including interactions with jail officials in the hours before her death. The Web site is www.anaromero.org.

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.

She had not been charged with any other crimes, according to court records. Her brother-in-law Mario Aguilar said officers were looking for another suspect when they knocked on Romero's door.

Romero entered a guilty plea to the charges on Aug. 7 in federal court.

That day marked the last time that her court-appointed attorney William L. Patrick, saw her. Patrick, like Romero's family members, said she was not unhappy when he saw her last.

Patrick recalled explaining to Romero through an interpreter that although her case was resolved, the U.S. Marshals were going to keep her in jail until Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials could pick her up for deportation and that would take between three and six weeks.

Patrick said that once her plea agreement was accepted and her case resolved, Romero was relieved, even though that meant she would be deported from the United States.

"She was quite happy about it," he said. "She was looking forward to going home."

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