Woman found dead in Chelan County jail identified

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WENATCHEE — A woman found dead Sunday while in custody at the Chelan County jail has been identified as a 42-year-old Wenatchee resident.

Chelan County Coroner Wayne Harris says Blair Austin Nelson was found unresponsive in her cell at the Regional Justice Center about 5:20 p.m. Sunday. She was declared dead at the scene.

Blair Austin Nelson

Nelson, who’d lived in Wenatchee for about three years, had been booked early Sunday on suspicion of DUI, reported at 11:16 p.m. Saturday in the 600 block of South Mission Street. Wenatchee police said they stopped her Honda Accord nearby, and found Nelson behind the wheel with a black eye and blood on her sweater, apparently intoxicated.

Nelson allegedly told officers she had drunk four shots of whiskey earlier in the day, and received her bruised eye and a bloody nose in a fall. Police said she had a blood alcohol level of about 0.25 percent at the time of her arrest, and was examined and medically cleared at Central Washington Hospital before being admitted to jail.

Jail authorities said Nelson was found deceased Sunday by corrections deputies while they were serving the dinner meal. She was being held in isolation in a quarantine cell; jail procedure during the COVID-19 pandemic has been to isolate individuals for three to 10 days until they are cleared of infection and moved to general population housing.

The cause of Nelson’s death remains under investigation by the North Central Washington Special Investigation Unit, a multi-agency police team that investigates deaths that occur during the law enforcement process. Hers is the second in-custody death at the jail this year; Joseph A. Verville, 38, of East Wenatchee died Sept. 7 while being held at the jail on an outstanding warrant.