Terminally ill inmate released to hospice
Family members of a terminally ill Hempstead woman wept Tuesday when a Nassau judge excused her from serving the remainder of a 21/4 jail sentence on shoplifting charges so she can die in a hospice.
County Court Judge Francis Ricigliano first released Diane McCloud, 48, from jail in January 2011 so that she would be eligible for a heart transplant. She had been convicted of stealing $3,800 worth of items from a Target store in Westbury.
But McCloud was rearrested in July for pilfering teeth-whitening strips, diet pills and Oil of Olay beauty cream from an Oceanside drugstore and Ricigliano locked her back up to serve out her original 15-month sentence, plus her sentence for the new crime.
McCloud's lawyer, Leonard Isaacs of Valley Stream, said at the time that he feared McCloud would die in jail because she could not receive a heart transplant or sufficient medical care in jail.
Tuesday, McCloud's cardiologist testified that her health has deteriorated to the point where she now has only "days or weeks," left to live, and told the judge that she belongs in a hospice, not in Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where she has been treated while in custody.
At the hospice, he said, doctors can help her manage her pain and counselors can help her and her family.
"The hospital is not the right place for a person to have a planned death," said Dr. Sanjay Doddamani, chair of the cardiology department at NUMC.
Ricigliano vacated McCloud's sentence after a local hospice faxed him a letter saying it had a bed for McCloud and would provide care for her until the end of her life.
Prosecutor Dana Boylan said her office did not oppose McCloud's release.
Outside court, McCloud's family members clung to each other and sobbed.
"We just want to give comfort to my sister in her last days," said Patricia Smith Blocker, 60, McCloud's older sister. "We've had no control to just hold her right now, but we will have it soon, and we will show her how much we love her."
A few months after McCloud's first release, Ricigliano learned that McCloud had become ineligible for one heart transplant program because she had been smoking and because she was not attending mandated drug screenings. The judge also pointed out that this was McCloud's 69th arrest, her 27th on felony charges, and said it was "not the first time" she had failed to comply with his orders. He gave her a stern warning but did not send her back to jail.
"I will resentence you to the maximum amount of jail, without any problem," Ricigliano warned McCloud at the time. "If you pass away there [in jail], it's a terrible tragedy, but it's up to you."
McCloud's sister Tuesday said she had no idea why McCloud didn't seize her second chance at life.
"We do not know the reasons she did this," Smith Blocker said. "We will never know."