Janitor, 72, gets accidentally locked in holding cell for 3 nights

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 5:23 AM EST
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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (WESH) - A 72-year-old janitor spent three nights without food after she ended up accidentally locked inside of an inmate holding cell at a Florida courthouse.

Libia Vargas De Dinas, 72, was recovering at the hospital after a weekend locked in the Orange County Courthouse, where she works as a janitor. She was cleaning last Friday around 9:30 p.m. when the inmate holding cell door shut behind her, according to the incident report released by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Vargas De Dinas was locked in. Her janitorial cart and cell phone were outside the holding cell. It was a moment, she described, of total despair.

“It was the weekend. No one would go up to the top floor, the 23rd floor,” she said in Spanish.

Vargas De Dinas remained stuck until Monday morning. For three nights, she had no food. She drank water from a faucet above the toilet and slept on a bench.

On top of everything, Vargas De Dinas has diabetes and told officials she had not taken any insulin since before she was locked in.

She believes it was her faith that kept her alive.

“I prayed to God that he would take care of my health, body, mind, soul and spirit,” she said in Spanish. “My God, I know you are here with me.”

The Orange County government says there are no cameras in the holding cells.

“Upon hearing of the plight of the janitorial employee, Orange County has mandated that the security company walk every space within the janitorial footprint,” a government statement read.

Orange County also says the automatic door closer has been removed to ensure this does not happen again.

The sheriff’s office says deputies only patrol the courthouse during normal business hours. That weekend, several security guards with Allied Security Services patrolled the area.