A woman who was being held in a suburban Chicago jail for missing a court appearance died Tuesday after going on a hunger strike.
Authorities are trying to locate the family of Lyvita Gomes, 52, who is originally from India but had been living in a Vernon Hills, Ill. hotel, the Associated Press reports. Gomes was arrested Dec. 14 after allegedly missing a court date, and began a hunger strike shortly after.
The bizarre scenario began in October, when Gomes reportedly failed to answer a jury summons and Lake County sheriff's deputies issued her a civil warrant, the Daily Herald reports. The woman reportedly "resisted deputies" during the service of the warrant and was arrested.
The Daily Herald reports on what happened next:
While she was in the Lake County jail, it was discovered that there was a hold placed on her from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She was then turned over to immigration authorities.
From there, the trail becomes somewhat murky, officials said.
“Once you’re released into ICE custody, it’s kind of like you’re in a black hole. ICE does not report back to us what happens,” said Chief Wayne Hunter, the sheriff’s head of administration. “We can only assume, because she was back out on the street, that one of two things happened: either ICE decided they were not interested in her. Or the (federal) magistrate gave her a court date and told her to report back.”
Lake County officials returned to Gomes's hotel on Dec. 14 -- after she missed a hearing for her resisting arrest charge -- and took her to the Lake County Jail, according to the Deerfield Review.
“She was uncooperative during her intake and medical screening,” Comdr. Wayne Hunter, chief of administration for the sheriff’s office, told the Deerfield Review. She said she was going on a hunger strike soon after and was taken to the jail's medical unit for refusing to eat.
“Her motivation (for the hunger strike) was unclear,” Hunter told the paper. “It’s baffling, it really is."
When the jail's medical staff became increasingly concerned about her refusal to eat, Gomes was sent to Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan, where she died of dehydration and malnutrition a few days later.
“No one has come to claim her,” Hunter told the Herald. “Of all the painful things ... it’s bad enough this poor woman ends up passing away. (But) we have no family.”