Crime

Inmate kills himself with razor at Whatcom County Jail

A Whatcom County Jail inmate killed himself with a shaving razor this week in his jail cell, according to investigators.

Timothy Blair Drafs, 50, a homeless man from Bellingham, was being held earlier this week in a cell block on the second floor of the jail. He did not have a cellmate.

Around 11 or 11:30 p.m. each Wednesday, inmates are given Bic safety razors so they can shave before going in front of a judge on Thursday morning, said Chief of Corrections Wendy Jones. Only inmates who aren’t flagged as mentally unstable are given razors, she said.

Early Thursday, just a few minutes after midnight and around the time deputies would have been rounding up the razors from inmates, corrections deputies found Drafs in his cell with a serious wound to his neck. Aid responded but found he had died, according to the sheriff’s office. Bellingham police were called in as an outside agency to investigate.

According to a sheriff’s office press release, guards had checked on him “within the preceding hour,” though an exact timeline hasn’t been released.

An autopsy found Drafs cut himself with the razor. Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel ruled the death a suicide.

Anytime there’s a “critical” incident like a suicide, Jones said, jail officials review their policies to see if there’s a way to prevent it from happening again.

Drafs had been awaiting trial on charges of felony harassment and assault in the fourth degree for an alleged attack on his girlfriend on May 11.

Thursday is the busiest day of the week for felony defendants in court. However, Drafs did not have a court hearing scheduled this week, and his tentative trial date was in July.

A family friend, Abbey Nightingale, said Drafs suffered from post-traumatic stress, severe depression and an anti-social disorder. He struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction, the root of many of his run-ins with the law, Nightingale said.

“He has a horrible, horrible, horrible criminal history because he is an addict,” Nightingale said. “He was mentally ill.”

Drafs’ criminal rap sheet begins with a notorious case from the late 1980s when he tied up, beat and burned a teenager at a house on Ellis Street. Drafs and another young man forced the teen to write messages to the Devil on the wall in his own blood, according to the victim. He served a five-year sentence for the crime.

In the years that followed Drafs was convicted of felony assault, felony harassment, burglary and felony theft. He spent much of his adult life behind bars.

Often in Whatcom County Jail he went on hunger strikes to protest the conditions for inmates, once going almost two weeks without food, Nightingale said.

“A lot of people, especially homeless people, would say he’s a nice person, a kind-hearted person,” she said. “He was not a monster.”

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