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Prosecutor: No wrongdoing in Salmon woman’s death

The Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office says no criminal charges are warranted in the death of a woman who died after an incident in the back of a patrol car.

Kari Lynn Stephanishen, 44, died at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center on Nov. 1, after being in the custody of the Lemhi County Sheriff’s Office.

According to its report, there is no evidence that a crime was committed by deputies or other parties.

Stephanishen was found unconscious in the back seat of a Lemhi County patrol car on Oct. 31. According to Lemhi County Sheriff’s Office reports, she had been put into custody on a drug possession charge and used a seat belt to harm herself.

The prosecutor’s investigation determined Stephanishen’s hands were handcuffed in front of her after she complained about pain in her wrists.

Based on the investigation, photographs and autopsy reports, the prosecutor’s office said Stephanishen was combative and was observed thrashing around in the vehicle.It said officers checked on her at various times.

She was ultimately found with the seat belt around her neck and in acute distress.Officers administered CPR and found an EMT to provide assisted breathing.Stephanishen was transported to EIRMC in Idaho Falls, where she was later pronounced dead.

According to autopsy reports, the cause of her death was mechanical asphyxia, secondary to ligature hanging with a seat belt.Toxicology findings also revealed acute methamphetamine intoxication.There was no evidence of trauma to the hands, arms, or abdomen that would indicate any kind of altercation.

In a statement, Lemhi County Prosecutor Paul Withers said he was grateful for the thorough investigation. “This incident was a tragedy for Ms. Stephanishen’s family, the officers involved, and for our community. All of the law enforcement officers involved did everything they could to save Ms. Stephanishen that night, but unfortunately those efforts were unsuccessful.”

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