Archived News

SBI won’t investigate Haywood jail death

The state will not investigate the death of Jessica Martin, who died last week after collapsing in a holding cell at the Haywood County Justice Center.

“The State Bureau of Investigation is not planning to open an investigation at this time, given the results of the autopsy,” said Noelle Talley, a spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Justice, in a voicemail message.

The autopsy report hasn’t been completed or publicly released, but Talley said the justice department received preliminary information that helped them make their decision.

Martin died on Aug. 10 at MedWest Haywood after emergency services were called to the courthouse around noon that day, but no cause of death has yet been released.

Haywood County Sheriff Bobby Suttles said that Martin had been seen, at least once, by the nurse kept on staff at the jail before she was sent to the courthouse to await her appearance. The nurse determined that Martin didn’t need to go to the hospital.

Martin fell ill before making it to the courtroom, and life-support measures were started when the ambulance arrived.

Related Items

Martin was a 20-year-old Haywood County native and Pisgah High School graduate who was in the county’s jail because she didn’t show up for a court date in late July.

The charge was a holdover from her sole conviction, a 2008 drug paraphernalia charge, to which she pleaded guilty.

She was given a year of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay a fine of $331. But she never paid, and then missed both resulting court dates, in February and July.

She had been in the jail for five days before her death, and Suttles asked the SBI for an investigation.

“That’s just standard procedure for us,” said Suttles. “Not every time, but almost every time, we request the SBI.”

Martin is survived by a two-year-old son, Dillon, as well as her mother and several grandparents, all of whom live in Haywood County.

Her father, who operated heavy machinery for a local construction company, died last year.

Leave a comment

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.