Woman awaiting trial in Hampton died of an overdose while in jail over three hours away, medical examiner says

Kernet Holloway, a Hampton woman being held over 200 miles from home in a jail outside of Lynchburg, died of an overdose Feb. 3, according to a medical examiner.

Holloway was 33 when she died.

Details of her death were murky initially, and left her father, Kermit Brice, looking for answers. Now, the medical examiner’s office in Roanoke ruled the cause of her death acute fentanyl toxicity and said the manner was accidental.

Representatives from Amherst County Jail, where Holloway was being held, and Blue Ridge Mountain Jail Authority, which manages the jail, didn’t return requests for information Thursday afternoon. It is unclear how Holloway was exposed to fentanyl while in custody.

Holloway was one of 170 people awaiting trial in Hampton but jailed outside the city, the Daily Press reported.

The number of inmates held outside of Hampton spiked when the city jail closed last May. It was meant to be temporary, but the facility remains closed. Hampton contracted with four agencies, including Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority, to hold inmates while its capacity was limited. Many are held outside the city.

This has posed significant delays in the legal process by making it difficult for attorneys and clients to meet in person. It has also caused people to miss important court hearings when jails didn’t transport them back to Hampton. Women are disproportionately affected. With only 10 spots for women at Hampton Community Corrections, the jail annex about three miles from downtown, most female inmates are held outside of the city.

When the worst happens, as in Holloway’s case, it makes getting answers even more difficult.

Brice found out Holloway was transferred to a jail in Lynchburg just days before her death, and only when Holloway called and told him herself. Holloway’s attorney, Matt Johnson, wasn’t notified of her move.

Holloway had pending charges from cocaine possession incidents. Johnson said Hampton courts were trying to get Holloway into a behavioral health docket, a program for those with mental health concerns.

“But that whole process gets frustrated when she then just gets shipped across the state,” Johnson said. “I don’t understand why she ended up three hours away, dying by herself.”

“When my child died, it was like something stepped out of my body,” Brice told the Daily Press in March. “I’m hurting now because I couldn’t protect her. I thought she was safe in jail.”

Brice said Holloway had been looking forward to beginning drug rehab. An obituary for Holloway said she had many goals and aspirations and left a lasting impression on anyone she met.

Cianna Morales, 757-957-1304, cianna.morales@virginiamedia.com