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Inmate found unconscious, pronounced dead at hospital

By JOHN WHARTON

Staff writer

A Lusby woman sentenced last week to serve seven years in custody on a charge of conspiracy to attempt an armed robbery died Sunday evening at a hospital, authorities report, after she was found unconscious in her cell at the St. Mary’s jail.

Melissa Mae Benton, 36, was alone in a cell in the detention center’s diagnostic holding area when correctional officers checked on her shortly before 6 p.m. that day, sheriff’s Capt. Michael Merican said, and efforts commenced to try to revive her.

“She left here with CPR in progress, and the hospital pronounced her dead,” according to Merican, the jail’s commander.

No signs of trauma to Benton’s body were found, Merican said, and she did not have anything in her possession with which she could have harmed herself.

Benton’s lawyer said at a sentencing hearing last week that Benton became dependent on prescription pills after she was injured in a vehicle accident.

Benton told a judge, “I do believe that I need help.”

Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) said Tuesday that there was nothing at the scene to indicate the cause of Benton’s death. An employee at the state medical examiner’s office in Baltimore said Tuesday afternoon that the cause and manner of Benton’s death has not been determined.

Benton acknowledged in court last week that prosecutors had evidence to support the charge against her of conspiracy to attempt an armed robbery, in which they allege she was the getaway driver.

Benton’s plea included no admission of guilt in the thwarted holdup attempt from August of last year at a Great Mills business.

jwharton@somdnews.com