Jamie Lindsay Cleghorn, 34, had been airlifted to the University of Utah medical center after a flight from police ended with her crashing her truck in Riverton on Aug. 12.
But on Wednesday afternoon — despite being wanted on more than 40 warrants — Cleghorn was allowed to walk out of the university hospital. The Alabama woman remained at large as of press time Monday.
Cleghorn’s release appears to have resulted from crossed wires between several different law enforcement agencies and perhaps a mistaken belief that the woman was more seriously injured.
Deputy Uintah County, Utah, Attorney John Gothard, who’s prosecuting five pending cases against Cleghorn, said the hospital did not notify law enforcement before discharging Cleghorn.
“Needless to say, our office is quite distressed, as is my case officer” with the Vernal, Utah, Police Department, Gothard said.
A spokeswoman for University of Utah Health Care, Kathy Wilets, noted that federal privacy laws limit the information a hospital can release about a patient without their consent.
“Hospitals are institutions for healing,” Wilets said in a statement to the Tribune. “If a patient is considered a fugitive by law enforcement and considered a safety risk, we expect the law enforcement agency to place that patient under arrest and in custody for the safety of our staff and other patients.”
Gothard said his office had a deal worked out with University of Utah campus police to monitor Cleghorn and notify Uintah County if she was going to be released. However, Keith Sterling, a spokesman for the University of Utah, said the campus’ police department “was not specifically asked to stay with this patient.”
A spokeswoman for the Salt Lake City police department said that somehow, her agency ended up being summoned to guard Cleghorn — even though it was in the university police department’s jurisdiction, and it was police in Vernal, Utah, who were seeking her arrest.
Salt Lake Police Sgt. Robin Heiden said medical staff at the hospital informed the department’s officers that Cleghorn’s medical condition was such that “she wasn’t going to be able to walk out of the hospital.”
With the word that Cleghorn was immobile and the understanding that she was not wanted on allegations of violence, Heiden said the department made the decision to leave.
“If they would have been a violent type of warrants that she was wanted on, I think it would have been a totally different story on that,” Heiden said.
According to KSL News, Salt Lake officers left the hospital sometime early on Aug. 13. Heiden said Salt Lake police did notify Vernal police that they were leaving.
A call seeking comment from Vernal police was not immediately returned on Monday.
Cleghorn has the largest number of pending charges from a Vernal police department investigation that resulted in some 27 felony and misdemeanor charges in Uintah County’s District Court.
She’s been wanted there since missing a July 16 court date; Cleghorn was supposed to be obeying the law, wearing an ankle monitor and staying in Utah while free on a $10,000 bond, Gothard said. Police say she instead came to Wyoming and passed two bad checks at the Powell Shopko on July 30 and 31 totaling nearly $1,100.
Police say that among the more than 40 pending warrants for Cleghorn’s arrest are other allegations of identity theft, passing counterfeit money and checks, possessing drugs and giving pornography to children under the age of 10.
Police caught a break on Aug. 12 after an alert Cody bank teller reported that Cleghorn was trying to cash a bogus check. After extensive cooperation between law enforcement in Powell, Cody and Park County, a Hot Springs County sheriff’s deputy spotted Cleghorn’s vehicle. She then led police and the Highway Patrol on a lengthy chase, dodging multiple spike strips before wrecking in Riverton and being airlifted to Salt Lake City.
Powell Police Investigator Mike Hall learned of Cleghorn’s escape from the hospital on Thursday morning.
Hall said he was “speechless.”
“Can’t even fathom it,” he said, adding that, “Wyoming law enforcement did the job and did it well.”
Gothard, the assistant prosecutor in Uintah County, Utah, said police will catch up to her.
“It’s just unfortunately going to be later rather than sooner now,” he said.