Woman Jailed In Long Beach Chooses Death Over More Time Behind Bars

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Lawanda Sockey (left) with sister, Teresa in better days
Lawanda Sockey had been clean for years. She did a dangerous dance with crack cocaine in the 1990s, running afoul of the law on a few possession charges. But by the end of the millennium she was clean, with a steady job and a place of her own. For a decade things were good. Lawanda helped raise her sister's two youngest children, contributing to family life on a daily basis.

But then their mother died in 2009, which seemed to act as a trigger for Lawanda's addiction. "Little by little she started losing weight," says Teresa Flynn, Lawanda's sister. "You couldn't tell she was on drugs. I couldn't tell. And then little by little my family would tell me, 'She's doing something.' I started really noticing this year."

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Despite backsliding, Lawanda remained connected to her family. "Even though she was using, she still came every day," says Teresa's eldest child, Valorie. "She still cooked, she still bought the kids things."

But Lawanda's addiction worsened, as addictions do, and eventually it encroached upon the rest of her life. By the end of 2012 she had lost her job. In March she became homeless. And as so often is the case, her family did not know how to reach her.

"We all tried to help her," says Michelle, Lawanda's sister-in-law. "We tried. But she didn't care what we thought, pretty much. Not in a bad way, but she was like, 'This is me.' She wanted to stop, but I think she was already too into it."

"She was always, like, 'I'm going to be okay. Don't worry about me,'" Valorie adds. "That's all she ever told us: 'Don't worry about me. I'll be fine.' She didn't care what anybody thought about her. That's what I remember about it. But she was still a good person."

Good person or not, on April 24 Long Beach police arrested Lawanda for what the LBPD describes as a "felony narcotics charge." Detectives clarified to the family that her arrest was not related to anything that transpired April 24, but that earlier in the week undercover officers had witnessed her dealing cocaine.

At approximately 3 p.m. Lawanda was brought to the Long Beach City Jail. Two hours later paramedics were rushing her to the hospital. But her life was already over. While the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office is awaiting the results of a toxicology report before determining an official cause of death, LBPD detectives told the family that Lawanda's autopsy revealed "something found in her throat [...] in her esophagus."

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