SOUTH BEND — An Argos woman found dead Tuesday in her St. Joseph County Jail cell was hiding plastic bags of methamphetamine inside her body, an autopsy showed. Jail officials found Stephanie Braasch, 23, unresponsive in her holding cell around 11 a.m. Tuesday. She had been booked into the jail March 7. An autopsy revealed the woman had hidden three plastic bags of a white powdery substance in her vaginal cavity, police said. The substance tested positive for the presence of meth. The bags were broken and leaking inside her, according to a news release from the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s office. The county coroner’s office has not determined a cause of death for Braasch, pending the completion of toxicology tests in two weeks. But St. Joseph County deputy coroner Randy Magdalinski said it’s possible that toxic or lethal amounts of meth leaked into Braasch’s bloodstream during the nearly 48 hours she was in jail, eventually claiming her life. "That's almost 48 hours, at least, that these bags were sitting in her body cavity," Magdalinski said. Officials did not say how much meth was in each bag. When Braasch was booked into the jail March 7, jail workers found one bag of meth in her vaginal cavity, according to a police report. Braasch told jail officials she did not have any more meth beyond the single bag, said Sgt. William Redman, spokesman for St. Joseph County police. "Why she wouldn't just come forward and say 'There's more,' I can't answer that," Redman said. Braasch was placed in a holding cell, awaiting formal charges from the St. Joseph County prosecutor. Two days later, jail workers found her unresponsive after trying to bring her lunch. Braasch and a 24-year-old Plymouth man were arrested in Walkerton around 5 a.m. March 7, according to a police report. A police officer stopped their vehicle, a green Mustang, after it crossed the center line several times, the report said. The officer found various meth “pre-cursors” in the vehicle, the report said. When the pair arrived at the St. Joseph County Jail, Braasch began fidgeting, according to the report. The intake officers then noticed Braasch’s pants were unbuttoned and unzipped. They took her to the showers, where they located the bag inside her, the police report said. Redman said body-cavity searches are only done if there is reason to believe, based on evidence or the suspect's statements, the drugs might be hidden inside the person's body. Doing body-cavity checks regularly would be "a huge invasion of privacy," Redman said. “There’s only so much our jail staff can do,” Redman said. Since Braasch denied that she had any more drugs, jail staff did not search her further, Redman said.
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