Cellmate of 19-year-old woman found dead in Fulton County Jail says mental illness was ignored

Nineteen-year-old Noni Battiste-Kosoko spent the last eight weeks of her life behind bars.

The reason: she didn’t show up to court to respond to trespassing and vandalism charges from February. 

One of her cellmates during her incarceration said it was clear her death could have been prevented because her mental illness was overlooked.

"The second she stepped into any jail, somebody should’ve been like, ‘She’s not supposed to be here,’" said the cellmate, who spoke with FOX 5 on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution in an active case. "It was clear she just needed somebody. When she sat to get her hair done, she was calm."

The cellmate, who just wanted to be referred to as Amanda, said she would wake up to hear the teenager slamming her head against the cinderblock wall.

"It wasn’t like a soft bang, it was a very solid hard, multiple times to the wall," Amanda said.

She said it was clear to her that Noni heard voices and suffered from mental illness, adding that she took her under her wing and bonded with Noni as she did her hair.

A spokesperson for Noni’s family confirmed she battled mental illness, adding that they are determined to get to the bottom of what happened to her.

"Our family is committed to uncovering all the facts surrounding this shocking and unfortunate occurrence," Noni’s family said in a statement. "If it is discovered that Noni’s death is the fault of those who were responsible for her care, they will be held accountable."

The new developments come as the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the Fulton County Jail. Among the allegations investigators are looking into is if people with mental illnesses who are incarcerated are discriminated against.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said they are still awaiting the results of the county medical examiner’s autopsy until they comment further. An initial report from the jail said she didn’t have any visible signs of injury.

According to the incident report obtained by FOX 5, no one knew Noni was in trouble on July 11 until dinner rounds. An inmate worker said she was face down and unresponsive when she gave her dinner, the report said. When the inmate worker flagged down a guard, the guards’ attempts to revive her proved unsuccessful, the report stated.

Amanda said the banging noise still haunts her at night. But she also remembers Noni’s beauty.

"She would every now and then start singing, and I think that was to deter from the voices [in her head]," she said. "I still can hear her voice. I can still hear her voice and remember her eyes."

Noni’s family has started a GoFundMe to pay for memorial and legal expenses: https://www.gofundme.com/f/noni-amira-battistekosoko.

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