Demitrius Manderfield, 20, is currently sitting behind bars in Michigan, awaiting trial, after being charged with a very serious crime: sex trafficking. However, his mother, Tia Sumner, is faced with the bigger concern that her son—innocent or guilty—might not even live to see his trial through because of the inadequate care that she says he is receiving behind bars.
“Since he’s been in jail, I’ve been informing the courts, the jails, the U.S. marshals and everyone about him being sick. And no one’s done anything. And I’ve asked for them to look at his medical records, I’ve begged them, I’ve wrote letters, and nobody did a thing,” Sumner told The Root in a telephone interview Tuesday.
When Manderfield was 6 weeks old, he was diagnosed with sickle beta thalassemia, a serious genetic condition that requires him to get blood transfusions every three weeks. In addition to the transfusions, he needs to take a particular type of medicine, called Jadenu, which gets the iron out of his liver, a common side effect with chronic transfusion patients, his mother explained.
However, Manderfield has not had any blood transfusions done; nor has he been given his medication in the past four months, Sumner says. His last transfusion was on Dec. 24, 2016, Sumner told The Root.
Sumner said that her son is currently suffering from sickle cell crisis, which leaves him in excruciating pain, but has been given only ibuprofen.
“If he was out here, he would be admitted into the hospital and given a morphine drip. That’s how bad [the pain] is. So for him to be there in all that pain, to me was ridiculous, regardless to what he was being charged with. Especially since he’s not been convicted. But even if he was convicted, I don’t feel like that’s right for them to just let him die because of what they think he did,” the concerned mother said.
Her son was arrested back in November when he was still 19 and charged with sex trafficking of a minor in a case concerning a 15-year-old girl.
At first he was held at Michigan’s Midland County Jail, where he was given his last blood transfusion, but he has since been moved to the federal prison in Milan. His condition, however, has been left unchecked, according to his mother.
The Root could not get through to the Milan detention center for comment on the case.
Sumner said that her son’s doctor wrote a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy confirming Manderfield’s life-threatening illness, recommending his medication and monthly transfusions, and insisting that the treatment begin “ASAP,” but that communication seems not to have been taken seriously.
“I am surprised, and I swear to you, I am surprised that he has not had a stroke,” she said, adding that she recently received reports that her son’s eyes were now yellow, raising red flags, and concerns about liver failure.
The Root reached out to the U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan about Manderfield’s treatment (or lack thereof) and received a statement saying, “Judge Levy has been well aware of Mr. Manderfield’s situation based on a court hearing that was conducted in early March and has followed up with the U.S. Marshals Service and the medical staff at the Milan Detention Center.”
Manderfield’s lawyer recently contacted Sumner, telling her that her son is now scheduled to see an oncology hematology specialist. But Sumner is still concerned because of the lack of care she says he has received thus far, despite her constant petitioning.
“They wasted all this time knowing that he was as sick as he was. So I’m concerned about care in the future. I feel like I’m fighting for one blood transfusion, but we don’t know how long he’s going to be there and they don’t seem to have a plan,” Sumner said. “That is my concern ... that they can tell me whatever they want to because I’m not there. And I can’t trust them because of what they’ve done in the past. So I’m afraid for him.”
Manderfield’s next court date has been set for April 7.
Sumner just hopes that she can save her son.
“I definitely want to fight to make sure that he gets that IV in his arm, and I want to see a plan for his care,” she said. “Somehow, this has to be wrong. It’s not like they weren’t notified.”