Sent to jail for his safety, dead within hours. Now this Ontario man's mother is speaking out

A mother is speaking out after her son died in an Ontario jail cell with what she says was a massive quantity of fentanyl hidden inside his body, raising questions about whether he might still be alive had staff searched him more thoroughly.

Jordan Sheard, 26, died with massive quantity of fentanyl in his body, mother says

'He was a beautiful person, but he was a scared person,' Angela Vos says of her son, Jordan Sheard. The 26-year-old died June 1 at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., after drug overdose, according to his mother. (Angela Vos/Facebook)

A mother is speaking out after her son died in an Ontario jail cell with what she says was a massive quantity of fentanyl hidden inside his body, raising questions about whether he might still be alive had staff searched him more thoroughly.

Jordan Sheard, 26, died at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., on June 1. He was taken there after spending three days in a hospital under psychiatric care, his mother Angela Vos told CBC News.

"He was a beautiful person, but he was a scared person," Vos said of her son, describing a difficult childhood that saw him unable to trust people or cope with change.

"He had demons, he sure did. But he was still a human being."

For years, his mother says, Sheard struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. In recent months, he seemed somewhat better — eating well and working out, looking better than he had in a long time.

But in late May, after a messy breakup and family dispute, things took a bad turn. Sheard grabbed a knife in his dad's kitchen, saying he wanted to kill himself, Vos said. His father called police and Sheard was taken to nearby Markham-Stouffville Hospital. 

'I believe that they didn't do their job'

At the end of his hospital stay, his family worried Sheard was still too much of a danger to himself to come back home. Technically under house arrest at the time, his mother says, a doctor had suggested it might be safer for him in jail, under the watchful eye of guards.

That was the hope, at least.

Instead, overnight, Sheard overdosed. He was given the anti-opioid treatment naloxone and rushed to a nearby hospital. He survived and was brought back to jail — only to be found in medical distress later that day, and died.

Sheard was taken to the Central East Correctional Centre after a three-day stay in hospital for a mental health crisis. His mother says a doctor suggested he would be safer in jail than at home. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

The cause of his death remains under investigation, but Vos says autopsy results shared with her by the coroner's office showed a large quantity of fentanyl stored in a body cavity. 

It's not clear when Sheard brought the fentanyl into the jail. His family wants to know how it went undetected.  

"If somebody overdoses in jail, you would think that this would give them probable cause to do a cavity search," Sheard's mother said. "I believe that they didn't do their job."

'Ongoing investigations'

Neither the Ontario coroner's office nor Ministry of the Solicitor General would comment on the details of the case, though the latter confirmed an inmate died at the Lindsay jail on June 1.

As with any death inside a correctional facility, ministry spokesperson Kristy Denette said, both a coroner's and internal investigation are underway. If the coroner determines a death was not due to natural causes, an inquest is mandatory. 

The ministry says it has procedures to keep illegal substances out of jails — including full-body scanners at almost all its facilities, including the Lindsay jail — and body cavity searches, which are carried out by medical professionals.

One of the last photos Sheard posted on his Facebook page was one of him and his mother, Angela Vos. 'Happy Mother's Day, Love you Mom,' he wrote on May 10. (Jordan Sheard/Facebook)

But whether a body cavity search was done in Sheard's case, the ministry won't say.  

Sheard's mother says the Lindsay-area police have been in touch with her. But the Kawartha Lakes Police Service force refused to confirm or deny to CBC News whether it is investigating Sheard's death.

Not placed on suicide watch, mother says

Vos is also concerned about how her son's case was handled at the Markham-Stouffville hospital where he was first taken.

She says the doctor in charge didn't acknowledge he was using drugs and was unwilling to keep him in hospital longer than three days. She also says the doctor, despite suggesting Sheard could go to jail, gave no orders for him to be kept on suicide watch — something she believes might have saved his life.

A funeral was held for Sheard on June 6, broadcast online because of restrictions on gatherings in Ontario amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Justice For Jordan/Facebook)

Spokesperson Rebecca Mackenzie says the hospital is "deeply saddened" by the death but unable to comment on specific cases due to privacy legislation.

Mackenzie says the hospital provides both short- and longer term care for patients in mental health crises. 

Before patients are discharged, "they will go through a comprehensive assessment, consultation with family member(s) and have authorization from a physician," Mackenzie said in an email to CBC News. 

Patients are cared for until they are "ready to be discharged and a discharge care plan is developed," she said. 

That's little comfort to Vos, as she explores her legal options and begins a painful wait for answers about her son's death.

A personal support worker herself, Vos has counselled many families when they've lost loved ones and says the loss she's facing is something she wouldn't wish for any parent.

"Jordan, although he was just afraid and had a lot of issues... everything he did was big," she said.

"So, in his memory, I would like to make sure that everything that I do for him is just as big as his personality."