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Prosecutors review findings in case of man left paralyzed while in custody

MANCHESTER - Investigators have completed their inquiry into how a Manchester man suffered a broken neck the left him paralyzed from the neck down, and their findings now are being reviewed by the county and state prosecutors.

Deputy New Hampshire Attorney General Ann Rice and Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia M. LaFrance will meet this week to jointly review police reports of what happened to Fern A. Ornelas, 54, while he was in the care or custody of Elliot Hospital, Manchester police and the Hillsborough County House of Corrections between Oct. 15 and 17.

Barring the need for follow-up investigations, the prosecutors expect to release their findings by month's end, Rice said.

If the investigation results in no criminal charges, the investigation would conclude with the release of a report, she said. If prosecutors determine criminal charges should be brought, no report would be released and they would proceed through the criminal courts, Rice explained.

Ornelas, who lost his job at Shaw's when the South Willow Street supermarket closed in September, went to the Elliot Hospital emergency department Oct. 15 because he had stopped taking his medications, friends and family said. While there, he allegedly assaulted a security guard Oct. 16, who in turn used force to subdue him.

Ornelas was transferred to Manchester police headquarters for booking on a simple assault charge, then taken to Hillsborough County House of Corrections about midnight Oct. 17. Ornelas was returned to Elliot Hospital about 9:30 that morning with what family and friends say was a broken neck that left him paralyzed.

He was transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. In December, he went to Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield.

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