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Bailiff ‘became busy and simply forgot’ woman 

/ Source: The Associated Press

A bailiff who forgot about a Mexican woman locked in a courthouse holding cell and left her there for four days without food, water or access to a bathroom has been suspended for 30 days but will keep his job, officials said Wednesday.

Washington County Cpl. Jarrod Hankins acted without "intentional misconduct" when he left Adriana Torres-Flores in a cell, Sheriff Tim Helder said.

Hankins "became busy and simply forgot" about the woman last Thursday, leaving her in the cell with only a jacket until Monday morning.

"I realize some people may have expected Hankins to be terminated. However, my philosophy is if an employee makes a mistake while trying their best to perform their duties, I will try to salvage them," Helder said in a statement.

Helder said Hankins had "an otherwise exemplary record" since 2005. Hankins was placed on administrative leave without pay Monday.

Torres-Flores, 38, appeared in court last Thursday on charges of selling pirated CDs. While others pleaded guilty she pleaded not guilty, but Circuit Judge William Storey ordered her held because she is an illegal immigrant from Mexico, deputies said.

Hankins locked Torres-Flores in the temporary cell and meant to have other deputies drive her back to the county jail. That never happened. No one heard Torres-Flores pounding on the cell's steel door or looked through its peephole Friday, as snow blanketed Arkansas and Storey did not hear criminal cases.

However, the sheriff's office said Hankins was on duty Friday.

The bailiff discovered Torres-Flores on Monday morning when he went to put another prisoner in the cell.

Torres-Flores was treated at a hospital and released.

Mexican consul Andres Chao visited Torres-Flores and county officials Tuesday and offered "the highest protest of the Mexican government" over her treatment. Chao said Wednesday he had no immediate comment.

Changes planned as a result of the incident include installation of a light that would signal indication whether the cell is occupied.