Second Whatcom County Jail inmate this month commits suicide

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 25, 2014 

An inmate at Whatcom County Jail died at the hospital Saturday, March 22, from injuries he received when he hung himself in his cell earlier in the week, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office.

Eric Aybar, 36, used his bedsheet to hang himself from a shower faucet in his cell at about 3 a.m. March 18.

His suicide was the second at the jail this month. Shannon Rose Jefferson, 36, died at the hospital after hanging herself with a sheet in her cell March 10.

Chief of Corrections Wendy Jones said she believed Aybar's death was the sixth suicide at the jail since she began working with the sheriff's office in 1981. Having two suicides in a month was "out of the ordinary," she said.

Shortly after 3 a.m. March 18, deputies got an alert notification from inmates in Aybar's cell, who activated a call light when they discovered Aybar hanging. A deputy monitoring the cell in the control room could see on camera at least one person moving in the cell. Aybar shared his cell with two other inmates.

When deputies responded, Aybar's cellmates showed them where he was hanging. The deputies started CPR and paramedics were called to take Aybar to St. Joseph hospital. He died the following Saturday in the hospital's intensive care unit.

Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel performed an autopsy Monday and found the cause of death was anoxic brain injury from an interrupted hanging.

Deputies had last checked Aybar's cell at 2:35 a.m., and deputies had been on third-floor rounds heading toward Aybar's cell when his cellmates activated the call light, the sheriff's office said. Although a camera monitors the cell, it doesn't cover the toilet area because of privacy restrictions.

Aybar was booked into jail March 16 on suspicion of felony domestic violence charges for violating a no-contact order and an assault.

All inmates entering the jail are screened to evaluate their risk for suicide. Aybar's screening did not lead medical or corrections staff to consider him a risk for suicide, according to the sheriff's office.

The Bellingham Police Department and the sheriff's office are investigating both suicides.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com.

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