by Brittany Hailer
Anthony Talotta, 57, an intellectually disabled man who died at UPMC Mercy in August after being transferred from the Allegheny County Jail, died of hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Four men died of natural causes after entering the Allegheny County Jail in 2022, according to the medical examiner.
Talottata, diagnosed with autism and intellectual disability, was found unresponsive in his cell and later rushed from the jail’s mental health unit. The jail released him from its custody hours before his death.
Talotta is the 17th man to die after entering the jail since the onset of the pandemic, the sixth such death in 2022. At least three men have suffered a fatal medical emergency in a mental health unit in the jail in under three years.
Emergency services were called to the jail’s mental health unit Tuesday, Sept. 21, at approximately 7:30 p.m., according to jail medical and correctional staff who contacted the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Jail staff raised concerns about Talotta’s medical treatment at the jail and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A physician on staff at the jail medically cleared Talotta after a first medical emergency was called, according to jail staff and administrators.
“Later that night, a second medical emergency was called for the same individual. Medical personnel treated the individual on the pod before paramedics arrived and he was transported to the hospital,” Jail Spokesperson Jesse Geleynse wrote in an email.
Geleynse indicated that Talotta was released from the jail’s custody at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 21. Talotta died at 10:46 p.m., according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner.
Jail staff reported Talotta’s death and custody release to the newsroom for fear that the jail would not report the death to the Jail Oversight Board or public. In the past, the jail has failed to report deaths of incarcerated individuals who died after a medical release and jail administrators have told the Jail Oversight Board that individuals who are medically released are “no longer on our count.”
“It angers me that they release them, it makes it look like it didn’t happen under their care, but it is happening under their care,” a jail employee told PINJ.
Talotta was arrested Sept. 9 in a residential living facility after he allegedly poured hot water on an employee, according to charging documents. He was charged with simple assault and aggravated assault and booked at the jail on Sept. 10.
A behavior request, which can result in an evaluation of Talotta’s competency, was submitted to the court, according to court documents. Talotta’s intellectual disability may have prevented him from participating in and understanding his own defense and trial. It’s unclear how those competency issues would have been resolved and if Talotta’s charges would have been dismissed due to his intellectual disability.
The timeline of Allegheny County Jail deaths in 2022 are as follows:
September: Anthony Talotta, 57, died at UPMC Mercy on Sept. 21 after he was transferred from the jail’s mental health unit and released from custody. Talotta died of hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office. His manner of death was ruled as natural.
August: Ronald James Andrus, 78, died August 14 in the Allegheny County Jail of an irregular heart rhythm, according to the medical examiner. His manner of death was ruled as natural.
“He had been in the hospital for the last 10 days but was released earlier today to return to the jail. He had been back at the facility on the medical unit for about an hour when a medical emergency was declared,” Harper wrote in an email to the Jail Oversight Board. Andrus was declared dead by jail medical staff shortly before 4:00 p.m. on August 14.
July: Victor Joseph Zilinek, 39, suffered a drug overdose resulting in his July 13 death, according to the medical examiner. His manner of death was ruled an accident. The combined toxic effects of fentanyl and methamphetamine contributed to his death, according to the medical examiner.
April: Jerry Lee Ross Jr., 48, died at the Allegheny County Jail on April 29. Jail employees conducted CPR and Ross was declared dead by a medical provider at the jail, according to an email from jail spokesperson Jesse Geleynse. He died of cardiomegaly, or an enlarged heart, according to the medical examiner. His manner of death was ruled natural.
March: Gerald Thomas, 26, died March 6 at UPMC Mercy Hospital where he was taken after he suffered a medical emergency in the jail. Thomas died of a bilateral pulmonary embolism, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office. His manner of death was ruled natural.
January: Paul Spisak, 77, died in January in a hospital after the court released him from Allegheny County Jail custody following an incident which left him unresponsive in his cell on Jan. 22. The medical examiner determined that his cause of death was blunt force trauma. The manner of death was ruled an accident.
More Allegheny County Jail Stories:
Photo of Allegheny County Jail by Jake Dabkowski.
Brittany Hailer is the director of the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. She can be reached at Brittany@pinjnews.org. Follow her on Twitter @BrittanyHailer.