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Sheriff responds after 7th inmate dies at Buncombe Co. jail in less than 2 years

<i>WLOS</i><br/>Recent reporting called the jail the
Recent reporting called the jail the "deadliest in the state."

By Caitlyn Penter

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    BUNCOMBE COUNTY, North Carolina (WLOS) — Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller responded Wednesday following the death of a Buncombe County Detention Center inmate on Tuesday night, Jan. 25.

The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office has identified the person as 41-year-old Maria Frisbee.

Miller said Frisbee was booked into the jail around 6 p.m. Tuesday and that she died just before midnight Tuesday at Mission Hospital.

He said due to her history, Frisbee was put on watch when she was booked into the jail.

Within two hours he said she started acting erratically and they had to call EMS to take her to the hospital.

“I want to express my condolences to the family and make sure we put that out that this something that, for me, is very personal,” Miller said, saying they never want anything to happen to inmates, to whom he refers as clients.

Miller wouldn’t comment further, as Frisbee’s death is being investigated.

Before this death there had been six deaths in a span of 16 months at the jail.

Recent reporting into this issue from the Asheville Citizen-Times called the jail the “deadliest in the state.”

“All these cases have been investigated independently by the SBI. We’ve contacted the DA’s office, and all the cases thus far we’ve been clear,” Miller said.

He said community factors like substance abuse and homelessness are fueling the issues he sees in the jail.

“My deputies haven’t done anything wrong,” Miller said. “Currently, they’re dealing with what society has brought to them. They’re coming into the jail not having healthcare, not being attended to, not taking their medicine, but they got arrested, so now that burden falls on the sheriff and to our detention staff.” He said people are coming into the jail in a critical state.

In the last couple years, the sheriff’s office has installed a body scanner to check inmates when they enter the jail.

They’ve also started medication-assisted treatment for people in the jail experiencing substance abuse issues.

“Our real challenge now is people are coming into the jail already with substances inside they’ve already consumed,” Miller said.

Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams declined an interview about the latest death but did provide this statement:

“In keeping with the MOU signed in 2020 between the DA’s Office and law enforcement, I confirm that officers from BCSO, including Sheriff Miller, contacted me personally to advise of the passing of a Detention Facility detainee early this morning. I have joined the Sheriff’s Office in requesting the investigatory assistance of the NC SBI, which is critical to ensure transparency. The SBI verbally confirmed to me that they are on scene this morning opening a case file. My sympathies are with the family of the deceased detainee,” DA Todd Williams said.

News 13 also reached out to Buncombe Commission Chairman Brownie Newman, who was unavailable for an interview.

Frisbee’s cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner pending an autopsy.

The SBI is conducting an independent investigation into the incident.

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