'It's devastating': Tenn. inmate dies from COVID-19 after giving birth, sparking custody battle

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. -- The COVID-19 death of a Tennessee inmate who gave birth shortly before dying could lead to a bitter custody battle.

This week, the Hamilton County's Sheriff's Office announced Morghan Elmore died from the virus.

The baby is in state custody, but the family is fighting for their grandchild.

WTVC reports Elmore looked like she was in the prime of her life. She was 30 and had just given birth to her second child when she died.

"It's devastating to say the least," said attorney Robin Flores.

Elmore's newborn will never know her mother. Flores is working to make sure she's raised by family.

"This new child, we are actively working to get this child over to them," Flores said. "This child is in bad shape herself."

Elmore had an extensive criminal history, mostly made up of misdemeanors. About two weeks ago, she landed in Silverdale on drug charges.

"It would appear that someone who is pregnant and in that kind of situation, there may have been something else for her," said Flores.

WTVC asked the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office specifically what precautions, if any, are being taken to keep pregnant women safe.

"Because she was pregnant, she gets the type of visits, the additional specialty visits. So, they monitor those quite often," said Deputy Chief Shawn Shephard with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Hammond said it's unclear if Elmore was infected when she was booked into Silverdale.

"I can tell you she was a high-risk patient, not only because of the pregnancy, but because of the legal charges. I can't say anymore," said Sheriff Hammond.

Sheriff Hammond said Elmore is the first inmate in their custody to die from COVID-19 and he's hoping she's the last.

However, the sheriff also said a couple are in bad shape.

The sheriff's department said they're doing all they can to spread inmates out. They said they are offering masks, cleaning supplies and the vaccine.

However, Chief Deputy Shepard said less than half of the more than 1,100 inmates are vaccinated.

Elmore was not vaccinated against COVID-19.
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