Jackson Inmate Languishes in Jail as His Attorney Files Contempt Motion
The case of Jeremiah Sinarski spotlights a shortage of hospital beds, lack of inpatient rehab
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Dec 15, 2023
Jeremiah Sinarski, 47, has been sitting in the Teton County Jail for 162 days—and counting—while awaiting transfer to the Wyoming State Hospital. He has been deemed incompetent to proceed with his criminal case. (Courtesy photo from Wyoming County Commissioners Association website)
By Alec Klein
Special to the Wyoming Truth
One hundred and sixty-two—and counting.
That’s how many days Jeremiah Sinarski has been sitting in the Teton County Jail—so far—as he has been deemed incompetent to proceed with his criminal case, according to sources yesterday. But authorities have also been unable to transfer him to the Wyoming State Hospital, due to what’s believed to be a shortage of beds.
As a result, his attorney, Elisabeth M.W. Trefonas, the Teton County public defender, has filed a motion to hold the Wyoming State Hospital in contempt; Sinarski, 47, was expected to have been moved to the state hospital about 91 days ago, while he remains on the hospital’s waitlist, with about 10 other prospective patients ahead of him.
Officials with the Wyoming State Hospital, reached for comment, said they could not comment on an individual case. Trefonas, who serves on the board of advisors of the Wyoming Truth, was not available to be interviewed for this article.
The veritable state of purgatory for Sinarski had deteriorated to the point that, earlier this year, he was found howling fiercely from his jail cell, screaming indiscriminately throughout the day and night, aiming his vitriol at no one in particular, until he was moved into solitary confinement.
Sinarski’s troubling case, which involves a combination of substance abuse and mental illness, throws into stark relief a double-barreled problem for the region and state. For Jackson Hole, the state’s no. 1 resort attraction, there is no inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center, despite a need for it, according to community leaders. Teton County boasts a higher percentage of adults reporting binge or excessive drinking than that of the state or nation, according to a recent study.
Compounding the problem, the Wyoming State Hospital, the only state-operated psychiatric hospital, is grappling with a waitlist of patients from throughout Wyoming seeking treatment. The state hospital can only accommodate so many patients, depending on its staffing levels, to ensure safe and proper treatment, officials have said.
Sinarski has been diagnosed as bipolar and schizophrenic with hallucinations, his attorney has said, adding that he also grapples with alcohol abuse and addiction. Sinarski has been in and out of jail for years, wrangling with the law not just in Wyoming but also in Arizona, Kentucky and Oregon, according to records. He has also been admitted to various rehab centers and the state hospital in Wyoming.
While Sinarski was not available to comment for this article, his attorney has noted that he does have bouts of clarity. He also has a sensitive side, especially when it comes to the care of wildlife. And he’s kind, intelligent and funny. There was a time when Sinarski was in better health, when he worked as a construction worker who helped to build such recognizable Jackson places as the Loaf ‘N Jug gas station and St. John’s Hospital.
Sinarski lived for a time at various motels in the area, including the quaint Pony Express Motel less than two miles from the town square, where he had become a recognizable, if solitary, figure, the residue of his slow descent into schizophrenia, addiction and clashes with the law.
In 2017, for instance, police said the Jackson resident was arrested about 16 times in the span of a year. Many of the arrests were for public intoxication. Sinarski’s prior scuffles with the law have become so notorious that it’s gotten him banned from many local businesses in Jackson Hole.
In his most recent arrest, court records show that, on June 5, officers were dispatched to the scene of a car accident. Sinarski was wearing a hooded black coat as he walked away from a damaged tan Oldsmobile. He couldn’t walk in “straight lines.” With “bloodshot watery eyes” and “slurred speech,” he admitted to consuming beer, and he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Sinarski was sentenced to 180 days. But by that time, he had already served 22 days, so the rest of the sentence was suspended, and he was released on June 27. He was placed on probation for two years.
But it took less than two weeks for him to violate his probation. On July 6, Sinarski was found at Smith’s Grocery Store just a couple of miles from downtown Jackson, where he was “yelling and cussing and throwing things in the checkout area of the store, causing a disturbance,” according to court records.
Sinarski was also in the act of purchasing a six-pack of beer at about 10 p.m. An officer was dispatched to the scene, and when the officer asked Sinarski what had happened, Sinarski “began yelling about his frustrations with the people of the Jackson Hole community,” according to the probable cause affidavit. After failing a breathalyzer test and admitting that he had been drinking beer since noon that day, Sinarski was booked in jailed.
His incarceration has been a challenge for the jail. Even other prisoners have complained about his wailing, and prison guards said they are doing the best they can for Sinarski, sources said. Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr couldn’t be reached for comment. Members of Sinarski’s family also did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
Sinarski’s plight isn’t an isolated case. Last year, Dennis Gross spent over nine months in the Jackson jail after being arrested for allegedly lighting a fire and stopping firefighters from putting out the flames, according to police reports. In another case, Riley Sills, a Teton County resident, was jailed for half a year before gaining admittance to the state hospital.