Heart cited in ex-deputy's death at Stanislaus County jail

A former Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy died of hypertensive heart disease after jailers subdued him with Tasers and pepper spray during an altercation while at the county jail in April, according to an autopsy and toxicology report released Thursday.

Craig Prescott, 38, of Modesto was in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail because police suspected him of making threats against his wife.

He was taken to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto after the altercation. He was declared dead after doctors turned off machines that had kept him alive for three days.

Authorities said Prescott was a threat to himself and others, but they won't say what happened until the investigation is complete.

Undersheriff Bill Heyne said the Sheriff's Department did not find wrongdoing by the jail officials who subdued Prescott.

"Our officers did it by the book," Heyne said. "They followed all the procedures."

He said they released the report on Prescott's death to his family Thursday.

"Unbelievable," was Rachel Prescott's reaction to the report. "Today was like opening up major wounds."

She said she believes the Tasers contributed to her husband's death. But Heyne said the pathologist found no connection between the use of Tasers and Prescott's death.

Prescott was arrested April 7 on suspicion of stalking and making threats against his wife, who had a restraining order against him and custody of their six children, according to court records.

His wife has said she had her husband arrested because she wanted him to get help for mental health problems.

"I felt my husband was in good hands," said Rachel Prescott on Thursday, who also said she believes the Sheriff's Department is responsible for her husband's death.

Prescott worked as a sheriff's custodial deputy for nine years, leaving the department in 2006 after authorities accused him of promising to supply tobacco to an inmate. Those charges were dismissed, according to court records.

The April 11 altercation occurred as deputies tried to move Prescott from the general population to a "safety cell."

On Thursday, Heyne said the investigation case file has been submitted to the Stanislaus County district attorney's office for review.

It will be up to the district attorney's office to make a final determination on the investigation, he said.

The report on Prescott listed four other conditions that contributed to his death.

One was moderate cardiovascular strain from heightened physical activity, which occurred during the struggle with the jail officials, Heyne said.

"This could've occurred if he gotten into vigorous exercise," Heyne said. "If he would've gotten in a pickup game of basketball or was involved in a regular exercise program, it would've had the same results."

At the time of his death, Prescott was 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighed 256 pounds, according to the report.

Other factors in Prescott's death were chronic interstitial fibrosis of the heart and atherosclerotic coronary artery disease, which are both related to heart disease, according to

The autopsy and toxicology report stated that Prescott had a history of chronic high blood pressure, possible mild chronic kidney disease and past heavy alcohol intake.

Rachel Prescott said her husband was a healthy, active man, and she did not know he had any heart problems or sought medical attention for any health issues.

She said her husband was a member of the Modesto Court Room Fitness Center on McHenry Avenue, where he played racquetball regularly and participated in other exercise programs.

"It was like a second home to him," she said.

Another factor cited in Prescott's death was psychotic behavior. Prescott had a history of violent psychotic behavior, depressive disorder and possible bipolar disorder, the report said.

Medical officials at the jail gave Prescott an injection of Ativan just before they moved him into the safety cell, Heyne said. Ativan is used to treat anxiety disorders.

The toxicology performed on Prescott's body did not find Ativan, other medications or drugs, according to the report.

Heyne said coroner officials are awaiting results from a urinalysis that might find traces of the drug in Prescott's body.

He said the injection is prepackaged for use in the jail and there is no chance for an overdose when administered. The drug is not believed to have been a factor in Prescott's death, Heyne said, but coroner officials must make sure the Ativan was in his body.

"His heart had stopped beating, so we think the Ativan didn't have time to move through the bloodstream," Heyne said.

Rachel Prescott said she and other family members tried to get her husband treatment for mental health issues that were evident by early February. But he refused to take any mood altering drugs that might have alleviated his mental disorders, she said.

She said her husband was a well-known member of the community who showed respect to anyone he knew or encountered.

"He was an upstanding citizen," Rachel Prescott said. "He was just one of those very alive people, and that's why he is missed."

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at or 578-2394.

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