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Former jail nurse pleads not guilty for inmate death

47 supports came for Danalee Pascua
Posted at 5:37 PM, Nov 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-21 23:56:39-05

EL CAJON, Calif. (KGTV) -- The former jail nurse accused of causing an inmate's death made her first court appearance Friday afternoon. She pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

The El Cajon courthouse was packed with supporters of former nurse Danalee Pascua, who said she is not the careless monster the District Attorney portrayed her to be.

36-year-old Danalee Pascua faced a judge for the first time in her life. The former nurse at Las Colinas Detention Facility has no criminal record. But two weeks ago, she was accused of causing the death of 24-year-old inmate Elisa Serna two years ago.

"She is just an incredible young woman and is extremely devastated by the charge that she is facing," Pascua's attorney, Alicia Freeze, said.

Pascua faces involuntary manslaughter charges, which carry a maximum four-year prison sentence.

Friday afternoon, 47 people came to the El Cajon courthouse to show their support of Pascua.

"Everyone I have spoken to, all the letters of support that we have submitted to the District Attorney's office speaks of her kindness, her attentiveness," Freeze said.

But the District Attorney's office said Pascua lacked the attentiveness she needed to serve her job. According to the DA, Pascua was criminally negligent, as she left Serna on the cell floor "despite obvious signs of distress." When she and deputies returned an hour later, Serna had died.

Since Serna's death, Pascua was relieved of her nursing duties and transferred to administrative tasks at the San Diego Sheriff's Department. She was suspended two weeks ago when charges were filed. Freeze said Pascua has cooperated during the two-year internal investigation.

At her arraignment, Pascua was ordered to turn herself into her former workplace to be booked and released on December 12, 2021. Her release also came with conditions.

"As a condition of the defendant's release, she cannot practice medicine. She cannot practice nursing on any patients," Assistant District Attorney John Dunlap said.

Pascua will remain out on her own recognizance. Her next court hearing is on February 17, 2022.