PIKE COUNTY, Mo. – The family of a woman who died in jail while pleading for a nurse say they were told they had no right to their loved one’s last words. That changed when the family sued for the heartbreaking messages.
Hollie Grote pleaded to see a nurse and go to a hospital while locked up in the Pike County Jail on a drug charge. She warned staff she was dying. Then she did.
“(My Mom) was losing her vision. She had headaches. She had these spells where she felt like she was going to pass out and couldn’t talk,” said Shainey Harpole, Grote’s daughter.
Grote died on Oct. 24, 2021, in the Pike County Jail. The medical examiner determined her cause of death was “increased intracranial pressure” from a benign brain tumor.
“She would tell me every day that she would request to see the nurse,” Harpole said.
Grote messaged jail staff repeatedly from an inmate kiosk, sending messages that family members say they sued to obtain.
Repeated requests starting in August 2021 – messages like, “May I please see the nurse ASAP?” and “I believe I need to go to an actual doctor or hospital to be tested.”
In September she wrote, “I could die if I don’t get the proper tests and or health care.”
Then in October, the month she died, she wrote, “I have extremely bad vision, darkness on one side and major double vision. I need for this to be looked into.”
You can feel her frustration in another message the same month – “You guys are trying to kill me.” The answer from jail staff is nearly the same every time – “This will be printed and placed in the nurse’s box.”
The family says she never got to go to the hospital.
“You could tell something was wrong. And she was ignored,” said Ashley Lovelace, Grote’s sister.
Harpole talked about trying to get the messages initially.
“I actually went up there before I hired (attorney Mark Pedroli) and asked for it and they didn’t give me any of her belongings or any of that stuff because they said it was under investigation, which I didn’t understand that,” she said.
Pedroli sued under Missouri’s Sunshine Law to obtain Grote’s final written messages. He said Pike County refused to hand them over until he filed.
“These kinds of cases are unfortunately more common now than ever,” he said. “The only thing left that they have not produced, which is also extremely important, are the communications among the sheriff employees and the sheriff about what happened that night, and I think they’re claiming that because those communications were conducted on private phones. They don’t have to turn them over to us, but because they’re about her and it’s about public business, we say they do.
“I don’t know why they would fight. It seems like maybe they are, in fact, hiding something.”
Pike County Sheriff Stephen Korte responded Tuesday, saying he’s not hiding anything and that his office turned over everything it has, including an internal investigation of the jail death to an outside prosecutor from another county for review.
Korte said he’s limited on what he could say because of a possible wrongful-death lawsuit.
That’s something Grote also wrote about in one of her messages. Approximately 24 days before she died, Grote messaged jail staff, “When I do die because of the amount of neglect here … At least my family can sue you.”