The loss of a Highlands Ranch woman who died by suicide May 29 after a brief stay in the Douglas County jail has left her community reeling as loved ones grapple with the event and the questions that remain regarding her final hours.
MiChelle McGarry, 54, was found inside her cell during the suicide attempt on May 25, Memorial Day, about 1 p.m., according to a news release from the sheriff’s office. Hours before, McGarry’s sister, Linda Passamaneck, had pleaded with jail staff to allow her to speak with her sister or send her a message. She was told it wasn’t possible, she said.
“I would have wanted to say that I love her no matter what. And that I’d be here for her when she got out,” Passamaneck said. “I don’t know if it would have helped my sister but I would have liked that opportunity.”
McGarry was the founder and owner of the Peep Clinic, a treatment center for children with issues such as bed-wetting and constipation, with locations including Littleton, Denver and Englewood. She was also deeply involved in multiple nonprofits like the American Diabetes Association and Ho-Bo Care Boxer Rescue.
“That’s what I want her to be remembered for,” Passamaneck said. “She gave a lot to a lot of people.”
After she was discovered in her jail cell, McGarry was transported to Castle Rock Adventist Hospital and placed into the intensive care unit for four days before she died from the injuries.
“We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the McGarry family,” sheriff’s office spokeswoman Lauren Childress said.
McGarry was arrested the night before on suspicion of domestic violence and third-degree assault, according to the release. Because of the Monday holiday, her hearing was set for the following day, May 26. Her suicide attempt was discovered on the holiday during a routine inmate welfare check in the jail, which is required every 30 minutes, Childress said.
Earlier that day, Passamaneck said, she was told by jail staff that if McGarry had her number and wanted to call, she would do so.
“I called first thing in the morning and that’s when I was told ‘we won’t give her a message and there’s no way you can reach her, and if she wants to talk to you, she can call. She will have a hearing tomorrow,’” Passamaneck said.
On its website, the jail offers video visits seven days per week. Passamaneck was not informed of this possibility, she said. The sheriff’s office — citing an ongoing investigation — declined to answer questions regarding inmate phone calls, including whether they were not available due to the holiday.
‘She changed lives’
McGarry, a certified nurse practitioner in both pediatrics and urology, worked to develop a unique treatment for children with elimination dysfunction, or issues like bed-wetting and constipation.
Her work was published in multiple peer-reviewed journals including the Urologic Nursing Journal, the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal and the Journal of Pediatric Adolescent Gynecology.
“She changed lives and is changing lives,” said Regis McGarry, her husband of eight years.
Her practice, which was inherited by her son, will continue to operate, Regis said.
McGarry, who was diagnosed with cancer twice in her life, once as a child and once as an adult, was known to many as a woman who always persevered.
“She had numerous health battles,” said Terri Ross, her friend and personal trainer. “Working with her, you could never even tell. She pushed through them and was positive and strong.”
McGarry completed multiple triathlons in her adult life and was training for the National Senior Games at the time of her death, Regis said.
Her loved ones remember her as a pillar of strength, who often didn’t show the pain she was enduring.
“I don’t think anyone had any idea about some of the demons she obviously was battling,” Ross said.
Her husband adds that while she had her struggles, most people who knew her didn’t see that side of her.
“Only those people closest to MiChelle saw the ugly,” Regis said. “MiChelle was complicated.”
Most of all, her husband and sister want McGarry to be remembered for all the good she did in other people’s lives.
“MiChelle was really special, she poured her heart into everything she cared about and so many people are amazed ... at all the things she’s done,” Regis said.
For Passamaneck, there are still many unanswered questions about her sister’s death, she said. She was able to speak directly with Sheriff Tony Spurlock about the situation and was appreciative of what information he provided, she said. Still, she hopes to see some changes in policy as a result of her sister’s death, she said.
“When you have someone in a situation like that and someone is trying to reach them, I don’t see why ... loved ones couldn’t reach out to them,” she said. “I’m not blaming anyone, I just can’t believe they can’t come up with a better system.”
Ross echoed this sentiment.
“Was she safe? Was she being watched over? I want to make sure those processes are changed because they’re obviously broken,” she said.
The investigation into McGarry’s death is underway and is expected to be completed later this month.
“Today is not the day to focus on blame,” Regis said. “That’s really not my interest right now.”
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