Family looking for answers after Wolastoqey man dies from COVID-19 while jail

Skyler Brent Sappier-Soloman, 28, was almost finished his three-month sentence when he died from complications of COVID-19.

Sappier was a member of Neqotkuk (also known as Tobique) First Nation, located about 200 km northeast of Fredericton, New Brunswick. He was a father of two and one of six siblings.

His mother, Dora Sappier-Michaud, still can’t believe her son is gone.

“It just breaks my heart and I feel angry sometimes,” Sappier-Michaud says.

His family says it all started when Sappier was trying to get mental health treatment. They say he spit on a hospital security guard.

That was a breach of Sappier’s probation, resulting in three months at the Saint John Regional Correctional Centre.

Sappier died on Jan. 31, about two weeks before he was supposed to be released.

Raeann Michaud, Sappier’s sister, says her brother was intubated as soon as he arrived at the hospital.

“We don’t understand why he is so sick because he’s fully vaccinated, he had a booster, he’s only 28 years old; there’s no underlying health conditions, like they just really didn’t understand,” Michaud tells APTN News.

His family alleges the correctional facility didn’t get Sappier medical attention in time.

“He must have been sick for a while, and I feel that they took him to the hospital way too late because he died really fast,” says Sappier-Michaud.

“The coroner called us, they mentioned that they had given him a puffer at the jail, so I don’t know,” says Michaud.

Sappier’s family says he should have not been sent to the correctional centre in the first place.

It had a COVID-19 outbreak, with 27 inmates and 54 staff members testing positive, according to a statement from the Justice Department in N.B.

“I feel if they didn’t have enough guards or whatever, they could have done something; they could have put him on house arrest or something instead of keeping him there, allowing him to get sick and allowing my son the die like that,” says Sappier-Michaud.

The province has ordered a Coroner’s Inquest, something the Wolastoqey chiefs support, according to a media release.

“We hope the inquest will reveal whether proper COVID-19 protocols were being followed at the jail and whether timely access to care was available.”

However, Sappier’s mother does not have faith in an inquest.

“Coroner’s inquest, they probably just want to cover their butts, pardon my language,” she says.

Michaud says her brother loved the outdoors, fishing, hunting, and was staying sober and looking forward to starting a new life.

In a letter to his mother on Jan. 14, two weeks before he died, Sappier wrote: “I miss you guys, I wish I could come to visit sometimes, I thought it would be a good idea to let you know how I am and where I am living and that I’m alive.”

The date of the inquest has yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, the Sappier family is hiring their own lawyer to seek legal action.

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