Another suicide at Weber jail makes 3 in 3 months

Feb 1 2013 - 9:35pm

OGDEN -- A recent suicide at the Weber County Jail is the third in three months, sheriff's officials confirmed this week.

Lt. Mark Lowther said there was a suicide in November, another in December and one in January.

As in all in-custody deaths, Sheriff Terry Thompson said the latest incident is being investigated by the Weber County Attorney's Office.

Lowther confirmed Justin Tilley, 21, of Ogden, was the individual who committed suicide in January. The other two were Jeffrey Wright, 43, in November and Ieve Dominguez, 22, on Dec. 9.

Tilley's mother, Ria Tilley, said her son had recently been released from jail but then missed a parole meeting. She said her son was not suicidal but had used heroin before being arrested and booked into jail the morning of Jan. 25.

She said he killed himself at 12:15 p.m. Sunday.

Ria Tilley said police should be aware that, after a few days of not having heroin, a person will hallucinate. She said her son should have been on a suicide watch and should have been given medicine that addicts need to wean themselves from heroin.

Lowther said arresting officers are trained to ask 15 questions. He said a couple of those are designed to warn the officers if a person is suicidal.

He said when people are booked into jail, they are asked another 30 questions, some of which are also designed to pinpoint who is suicidal. He said inmates are asked if they expect to experience withdrawal from drugs.

Alerts are triggered based on the answers to the questions, he said. Alerts are also triggered when a family member calls to warn of a potentially suicidal inmate.

In addition, two full-time workers with the health department screen those who are incarcerated. Lowther said staff members at the jail may initiate a suicide watch if they see indications that it's warranted.

On several occasions, and at least once in the last two weeks, jail employees have caught people trying to commit suicide and stopped them, he said.

Lowther said he can't comment specifically on Tilley's case because it is still under investigation.

He said it's hard to come up with an average number of suicides at the jail. Lowther said he worked in the jail for eight years and, in that time, only one suicide occurred.

Thompson estimated there are no more than one or two suicides a year at the jail. His nearly 30 years with the department includes time as jail commander.

"We book people all the time who are on all kinds of substances," Lowther said. "That alone doesn't warrant (a suicide watch)."

"There is just no rhyme or reason to it," Thompson said of the suicides. "And there is no indication of anything to lead us to believe (the recent suicides) are related."

The jail holds 888 beds, with a current inmate count in the range of 750.

Thompson said investigation into the three recent deaths has not revealed any specific reasons that they occurred.

"Nothing that would indicate why, except that it is the nature of the correctional environment that sometimes these things happen."

It is not unusual for inmates to be on suicide watch, he said, although it's not a daily event.

Thompson said depression is among the issues that arise regularly with inmates, drawing the counselor's time, but it is not the most common.

"We have far more that we catch in time, where we feel we intervened and we were able to keep them under close observation."

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