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Officials: Rape suspect kills himself before trial

5-20-2012 Pennsylvania:

MEADVILLE — A Crawford County jail inmate died at an Erie hospital early Saturday morning in the wake of an apparent suicide attempt, according to county officials.

Ethan James VanDervort, 29, of 11581 State Highway 98, an inmate at the county jail in Saegertown, died at UPMC Hamot in Erie, Francis Schultz, Crawford County’s district attorney, and Scott Schell, Crawford County coroner, confirmed. VanDervort had been at UPMC Hamot since Wednesday.

VanDervort was pronounced dead at UPMC Hamot just after 5 a.m. from injuries he sustained in an apparent suicide attempt Wednesday afternoon at the jail, Schell said. VanDervort initially was taken to Meadville Medical Center for treatment on Wednesday, but was transferred later that day to UPMC Hamot.

VanDervort’s death was expected to be ruled a suicide by the Erie County Coroner’s Office, according to Schell. The office has jurisdiction over the cause and manner of death since VanDervort died in Erie County.

As late as last Wednesday, VanDervort was set to stand trial Monday in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas on rape and other charges filed by Pennsylvania State Police at Meadville. However, the trial was rescheduled to the June term of court by the court administrator’s office following Wednesday’s incident at the jail.

Schultz said he was informed of VanDervort’s death just after 6 a.m. Saturday via a telephone call from Warden Tim Lewis.

An investigation into VanDervort’s death will be conducted by state police, said Schultz, who also serves as chairman of the Crawford County Prison Board which oversees operations of the county jail.

“It was an apparent suicide,” Schultz said. “State police have been involved in investigating since the beginning.”

Jail personnel had taken an inmate population count around 2 p.m. Wednesday with VanDervort apparently fine at that time. However, he was discovered in his cell minutes later in need of medical attention with emergency personnel called, according to Schell.

“He was found hanging in his cell,” Schell said. “A corrections officer administered CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). He had a pulse when he left (the jail), but he wasn’t conscious.”

Schell said VanDervort apparently never regained consciousness.

Schell expects to have a final report on VanDervort’s death from the Erie County Coroner’s Office on Monday.

State police had accused VanDervort of one count each of rape, sexual assault, indecent assault and harassment, and two counts of simple assault, for an alleged assault on a then-28-year-old woman at a Cambridge Township home between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. July 12, 2011. He was being held at the county jail in Saegertown in lieu of bond. ..Source.. by Keith Gushard Meadville Tribune

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