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Published on April 02, 2024
Families Seek Answers After Two In-Custody Deaths at Maricopa County Sheriff's FacilitiesSource: Google Street View

Tragedy struck twice at Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) facilities as two families struggle to find answers following the in-custody deaths of their sons. In one heart-wrenching case, Joseph Serrano, 27, died on September 28, only days after his mother had last spoken with him while he was detained at the county jail. In a separate yet equally distressing incident, 20-year-old Samuel Fagan lost his life in MCSO custody under unclear circumstances, leading his family to desperately seeking closure.

Jacquelyn Serrano has filed a notice of claim against Maricopa County, alleging mistreatment of her son, Joseph. Before his death, he was reportedly going through severe withdrawal symptoms and had been transported to a hospital. A "paperwork miscommunication," as stated in an MCSO report obtained by 12News, resulted in Joseph being erroneously scheduled for transfer back to jail instead of the infirmary. This was days after Serrano had informed intake staff of his fentanyl use, a presence which has become increasingly common in MCSO facilities.

The Fagan family is grappling to understand the chain of events that led to their son Sam's death. After being arrested for drug possession, Sam was found to have suffered unrevivable brain damage following an attempted suicide in his cell. His parents, Jill and David Fagan, were not notified of the critical condition of their son until two days after he was placed on life support. "I broke down," Jill Fagan told 12News, expressing regret and sorrow over decisions made in the wake of his arrest.

Adding to the Serrano family's pain, surveillance cameras in the transport van that should have monitored Joseph on his way back to jail were found to be non-functioning, with a monitor that appeared to be "unplugged," according to the same MCSO report. Other inmates described seeing Joseph "flopping around like a fish" during the transport. By the time the van arrived at the jail, he was passed out, and an ambulance only later transported him to a hospital where he would eventually die.

Serrano's death was listed as an accidental result of a gastrointestinal bleed from an ulcer, but the claim filed by the family's legal representation insists that there were traumas on Joseph's body that require further explanation. "There are a lot of things that remain unexplained," their attorney, Zaheer Shah, told 12News. Meanwhile, the Fagan family waits for a close-to-one-year timeline for the MCSO report of Samuel's death. In the interim, they have established a GoFundMe to help with funeral expenses as they hope his status as an organ donor can bring life to others.

The deaths of Joseph Serrano and Samuel Fagan add to a growing trend of in-custody fatalities at MCSO facilities, with 2022's death toll reaching 43 according to data from the County Office of the Medical Examiner. MCSO declined requests for interviews in both cases, citing pending litigation.