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By Lois Henry
Davon Mosley should not have died in an Alaskan jail cell. There are a lot of unanswered questions about Mosley's time in that jail: why he wasn't released when court papers appear to say he should have been; why he couldn't have visitors for the last two weeks of his life; and exactly how he died of "natural causes" while alone in a segregated unit. But that's not what I mean.
Mosley was severely mentally ill.
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For more information on Laura's Law, visit http://mentalillnesspolicy.org /states/lauraslawindex.html.
If our mental health laws weren't so outdated, maybe, just maybe, he would have gotten the help he needed back in 2011 here in Kern County and none of this would have happened.
I first wrote about Mosley when he ended up in jail after seriously injuring two family members with a machete during a psychotic break.
He had turned 18 a few weeks before the attack. That gave him the right to control his own medication. No matter that he was long known as being bipolar and schizophrenic and that he thought he was a demon when he was off his meds. He was 18, didn't want his lithium, and his doctors complied with his wishes. Then his family watched helplessly as he unraveled.
They called law enforcement but were told that until he "does something" the cops couldn't help. Even after his dad, Bruce Mosley, alerted officers that he'd just seen his son on the street dragging an ax, he got no help.
Then Davon attacked two of his brothers-in-law and ended up in Wasco State Prison where he served about 14 months of a two-year sentence.
I have to wonder, if Kern County had adopted Laura's Law back then, might Davon's downward spiral have been stopped before the attack?
Laura's Law allows family members to ask a court to mandate outpatient-only treatment for a severely mentally ill person without a crime having occurred.
Kern County, however, never saw the benefit to Laura's Law, despite encouraging statistics from Nevada County, where it's been used since 2008. Jail visits, hospitalizations, emergency contacts and homelessness have all been reduced significantly in Nevada County since Laura's Law was implemented, according to reports.
Still, Kern has resisted the law.
It's not a crime to be mentally ill, I was told by several mental health professionals when I first wrote about this issue in 2011.
Obviously. But mental illness can lead to criminal acts.
And the consequences can quickly become a cycle of jail time, recovery, reintegration, acting out, jail time and so on.
True to form, Mosley committed another misdemeanor abuse offense shortly after getting out of prison that his fiancee, Vernesia Gordon, said was a product of his mental issues. For the most part, though, she said Mosley was doing better -- as long as he stayed on his meds.
It was Gordon's idea that they go to Alaska to visit her family members.
Mosley told her he'd given the information to his parole officer and assumed his parole had been transferred.
They headed north last August with their toddler son, Davon Jr.
Gordon said they intended to come back to Bakersfield, but she stayed through the end of her second pregnancy. They had another son, Davon-Ta, in November 2013.
In February, she said, Mosley began "falling off" again and police took him to the Alaska Psychiatric Unit, where he stayed for a couple of weeks. He came back on his lithium and was "leveled out," Gordon said.
Back in Bakersfield, Mosley's parole officer visited his family's home, learned Mosley had gone to Alaska and issued a warrant. On March 13, Davon Mosley got into a heated argument over the phone with his parents and they called Anchorage police.
"We knew they were in a motel room with those kids and we were afraid for the kids," explained Bruce Mosley. "Davon ... without his meds, he does stuff and then he's sorry. We couldn't risk that with the kids."
They told Anchorage police Mosley had a warrant. "That's why he went to jail," Bruce Mosley said. "Now I wish I'd never done that."
Gordon said when Davon was first in jail, she spoke with him daily. Then, starting March 23, she had no more calls and wasn't allowed to visit. She called the court and was told charges were dismissed and he was set to be released April 2, so she waited.
"April 4th comes and about 2 p.m. I went to the jail to try and visit. They said they still hadn't gotten any release papers but that I should come back at 5:30 and I could see him," she remembered.
According to an Anchorage Daily News report, however, Mosley had been found dead at 1:48 p.m. that day. He was 20.
Gordon sent me photos of papers from the Anchorage court date-stamped March 28 that clearly state one count of "fugitive from justice" was dismissed. Yet, Rodney Armstrong, administrator for the Bakersfield parole office, said California very much wanted Mosley back. They had not dismissed any charges. In fact, his office had requested Mosley be extradited. No one in Armstrong's office even knew of Mosley's death until I called asking about it. "You'd think, it was our warrant, that they would have contacted us," Armstrong said of Anchorage authorities.
Instead, Anchorage officials called the Kern County Sheriff's Office, which informed Mosley's next of kin in Bakersfield. The medical examiner would only tell family members on Tuesday that he died of "natural causes" and mentioned something about a gastrointestinal "bleed."
Meanwhile, Gordon said, no one has seen Mosley's body yet.
I asked the Alaska attorney general's office about the case. They've said they will get back to me. Gordon, who is pregnant with Mosley's third child, said she will not let this go. She needs to understand what happened.
"Davon, he had problems," she said. "But he knew what he had waiting for him. He had a family. It's not like he wasn't loved."
Whatever the answers are, I, again, can't help but wonder: If the Mosley family's repeated requests for help had been handled differently back in 2011, would we be here today?
Contact Californian columnist Lois Henry at 395-7373 or firstname.lastname@example.org; the views expressed here are her own.
In this Californian video from 2011, Davon Mosley's family talks about his mental illness and trying to get help for their son.