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Update: Autopsy reveals cause of death for pregnant Silverdale inmate

Morghan Jean Elmore died in the hospital of COVID-19 shortly after giving birth. Photo of Elmore provided by the family. Background image: File WTVC photo.
Morghan Jean Elmore died in the hospital of COVID-19 shortly after giving birth. Photo of Elmore provided by the family. Background image: File WTVC photo.
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UPDATE (October 22nd):

We obtained the medical examiner's autopsy report that lists Morghan Elmore's cause of death.

It says Elmore tested positive on August 21st, and gave birth via caesarean section on August 22nd. An ambulance took Elmore and her baby to Erlanger, where the report says she was treated for COVID-19-related issues, and her condition declined.

She was pronounced dead just before 6 p.m. on August 30th.

Her official causes of death are listed as bilateral pneumonia, chronic drug abuse and COVID-19 infection.

UPDATE (Later on Tuesday):

A COVID-19 death could lead to a bitter custody battle.

The Hamilton County's Sheriff Office announced this inmate gave birth before she died from the virus.

The baby is in DCS custod and now the family is fighting for their grandchild.

Morghan Elmore looked like she was in the prime of her life.

She was 30 and had just given birth to her second child when the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office says she died from COVID-19.

"It's devastating to say the least," said attorney Robin Flores.

Elmore's newborn will never know her mother.

Flores is working to make Elmore's sure she's raised by family. He's representing Elmore's parents in a the custody case.

"This new child we are actively working to get this child over to them. This child is in bad shape herself," said Flores.

Elmore had an extensive criminal history, mostly made up of misdemeanors.

About two weeks ago, she landed in Silverdale on drug charges.

"It would appear that someone who is pregnant and in that kind of situation there may have been something else for her," said Flores.

We asked the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office specifically what precautions, if any, are being taken to keep pregnant women safe.

"Because she was pregnant, she get the type of visits, the additional specialty visits. So, they monitor those quite often," said Deputy Chief Shawn Shephard with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Jim Hammond says it's unclear if Elmore was infected when she was booked into Silverdale.

"I can tell you she was a high risk patient, not only because of the pregnancy, but because of the legal charges. I can't say anymore," said Sheriff Hammond.

Sheriff Hammond says Elmore is the first inmate in their custody to die from COVID-19 and he's hoping she's the last.

However, the sheriff also tells us a couple are in bad shape.

The sheriff's department says they're doing all they can to spread inmates out. They say they offering masks, cleaning supplies and the vaccine.

However, Chief Deputy Shepard less than half of the more than 1,100 inmates are vaccinated.

Elmore was not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Depend on us to keep you posted.

UPDATE (Tuesday, August 31st):

Chattanooga attorney Robin Flores tells us he's representing the parents of Morghan Jean Elmore.

The child is currently in DCS custody, but the grandparents are working to get custody of the newborn.

Flores tells us Elmore's parents are "devastated" and want custody of their grandchild.

Flores says the baby has severe medical needs, which is one reason the Department of Child Services intervened.

He says the child now has a name.

She was just called "baby girl" for the first day of her life, due to the circumstances.

We the asked Hamilton County Sheriff's Office about current COVID-19 protocols at Silverdale.

Here is spokesman Matt Lea's emailed response:

"The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division is going to great lengths to follow CDC guidelines and sanitize the Silverdale Detention Center on a consistent basis. The Sheriff’s Office is continuing to work with Health Department personnel and our contract in-house medical provider, QCHC, to safeguard the health of our inmates and personnel due to COVID-19.

In addition to following CDC and Health Department protocols, masks and cleaning supplies are available to inmates as requested. Our contract, in-house medical provider QCHC also provides the COVID vaccine to inmates who wish to receive it. Lastly, we are also isolating and quarantining inmates who have been exposed or test positive."

We're working to learn more details. This story will be updated throughout the day.


The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) says it's investigating after a female inmate died "from apparent complications" of COVID-19 while in custody at the Silverdale Detention Center.

HCSO spokesman Matt Lea says 30-year-old Morghan Jean Elmore passed away on Monday at a local hospital.

He later clarified that Elmore gave birth to a child shortly before her death. That child is now in the custody of the Department of Children's Services.

Lea says Chattanooga Police officers arrested Elmore on August 13th.

He says she was taken to a local hospital on August 21st.

Lea says the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office has asked the HCSO Criminal Investigation Division to conduct an investigation.

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We are working on learning more details. Depend on us to bring you updates as we get them.

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