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Woman steals sandwich, goes to jail and dies

MRSA infection is the perceived cause of death
March 1, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A woman arrested for allegedly stealing a $9 sandwich from a grocery store appeared in good health when she was booked into the Pinellas County Jail. She was dead two weeks later after aggressive infection ravaged her body. Dorothy Dian Palinchik, 42, died Thursday. Doctors determined she was suffering from pneumonia and the notorious drug-resistant staph known as MRSA.

While her family suspects she got the illness in jail, officials declined to comment on specifics of her care. They said only that she didn't show symptoms when she was booked and an investigation and autopsy were ordered.

Before her arrest, Palinchik worked as a waitress, did odd jobs and seemed in good health, said her mother, Dorothy Helen Palinchik.

"It was terrible," she said. The family is considering a lawsuit.

Palinchik was arrested Feb. 13 after authorities alleged she stole a $9 Philly cheesesteak sandwich. Her boyfriend, Michael Mullican, offered to pay her $250 bail, but she declined, saying she'd rather serve her time.

She had a fever within days of entering the jail, Mullican said. He said Palinchik could barely lift her head when he visited her Feb. 21. Palinchik was taken by ambulance to Largo Medical Center, where she died after being placed in a medically induced coma, her hands and feet blackened by disease.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, can appear in cramped quarters, including jails, hospitals, schools and nursing homes. Studies estimate that while staph inhabits 20 to 30 percent of the population, only about 1 percent carry the antibiotic-resistant MRSA strain.

 

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