Coroner says death at Santa Cruz Co. jail due to natural causes

The Santa Cruz County coroner's office has determined that a 23-year-old woman who died in custody at the county jail in September died of natural causes associated with opiate withdrawal and chronic heroin abuse.

Krista Deluca, of Santa Cruz, died at the Santa Cruz County Jail Sep. 29 after getting arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of drugs, possession of paraphernalia and five outstanding warrants.

A correctional officer found her in medical distress at 6:51 a.m. and medical personnel attempted to stabilize her, but Deluca was pronounced dead at 7:28 a.m.

Her official cause of death is listed as "acute aspiration pneumonia, dehydration, and probably electrolyte imbalance" due to "protracted vomiting" associated with heroin abuse and opiate withdrawal, according to a statement issued Thursday by the coroner's office.

Deluca's autopsy was conducted by a forensic pathologist, according to the statement, and it included toxicology testing.

The coroner's investigation also determined that correctional officers involved in the incident followed jail policies and procedures in an appropriate manner.
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