Family of dead Douglas County inmate speaks out, left with questions on how they lost their loved one

The Jontz family speaks out after a loved one dies in custody
Published: Nov. 25, 2022 at 5:23 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The day Mark Jontz turned himself in for traffic violations, he told his daughters he’d see them in a few days.

“I never thought that would’ve been the last time I would see my dad. When he walked in to sit out his fines,” said Nicole Bielenberg, one of his daughters.

Then just a couple of days before his release he died.

Jontz was the third inmate in a three-week period to die under Douglas County Corrections’ watch.

His death followed those of a 33-year-old man and 47-year-old woman.

All three statements from Douglas County Corrections about those deaths gave little detail about what happened. And all three stated that the inmates were “found unresponsive in his [or her] cell,” “live-saving care was immediately initiated,” and they were “declared deceased.”

“I haven’t found out much. Like when I talk to them, they’ll just tell me they don’t have any answers. Due to the grand jury hearing, they can’t really tell me anything,” said Bielenberg.

That’s what they told 6 News too. We asked Douglas County Corrections for more details on Jontz’s case and a timeline for when the family would get answers.

Officials declined to comment pending a resolution of a grand jury investigation, which is required by Nebraska state law for any in-custody death.

When his family was informed about his passing, the only other thing they were told: “He was taken to the med center, released back to the correctional center. And within 24 hours he was found unresponsive,” said Bielenberg.

So 6 News asked Douglas County about that too, but there was no comment.

Jontz’ family, more than two weeks after his passing, still doesn’t know the cause of death.

“He was normal. He didn’t have any problems. He didn’t have any health issues. I think in August he went in for his physical, and he was fine.”

Now, they’re waiting for answers, uneasy about what happened, questioning if his death could have been prevented.

“I’m trying to figure out what happened. And why they thought he was okay to be released back to the jail. Like if he had to go to the hospital, why did you think he was okay to be released back,” said Chelsea Bielenberg, one of Jontz’s middle daughters.