Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Report: Suicide victim hid intentions from jailers

Investigation clears Blaine County detention staff in inmate death


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

    A report from a Jerome County Sheriff’s Office investigation into the death last month of a Blaine County jail inmate concludes that 23-year-old Mitchel Wayne Christensen successfully hid his intention to commit suicide from detention center staff.
    The investigation was conducted as an outside review of Christensen’s death at the request of Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey. The report, released by Ramsey on Monday to the Idaho Mountain Express, has basically the same conclusions as a report from an internal investigation conducted by Ramsey’s staff. Both reports conclude that procedures were properly followed and that Christensen’s death would have been difficult to prevent.
    Christensen died from massive head trauma on June 14 at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise. The day before, on Friday, June 13, he dove headfirst, falling more than 13 feet, from a second floor railing onto a concrete floor in Cell Block 500 at the jail.
    He was brought to the jail on June 12, after being arrested in Twin Falls on a Blaine County warrant charging him with failure to appear at a hearing on a felony grand-theft charge. Christensen was also a suspect in several pharmacy robberies last spring in southern Idaho and northern Utah.
    The Jerome County Sheriff’s Office report was compiled by Detective Sgt. Duane Rubink, of the Jerome Police Department, which assisted the Jerome County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation. Rubink’s report was compiled in July after an intensive investigation into the circumstances related to Christensen’s death.
    The report confirms earlier Blaine County reports that detention staff had no opportunity to prevent Christensen from jumping. Officers rushed to the cell as soon as Christensen, as seen from a cell block surveillance camera, climbed onto the rail. However, he jumped immediately after officers entered the cell block.
    Rubink noted in his report that Blaine County Deputy Rob Head had concerns about Christensen’s mental state during intake questioning and took his concerns to Capt. Jay Davis, the detention center director. Because of those concerns, Davis had Christensen screened by Judith Peterson, the detention center registered nurse, who was interviewed for the Jerome County investigation.
    “Judy stated that when she saw Christensen he maintained good eye contact and his attitude seemed OK,” Rubink wrote.
    Following the screening, Christensen was removed from a holding cell and placed in Cell Block 500 with other detention center inmates.
    “After reviewing all the information we had, it appears that the sheriff’s personnel followed their intake procedures, and went beyond by having Christensen medically cleared prior to housing, which normally would not have been done given his responses to intake questions,” Rubink wrote. “It appears that Christensen was suicidal and concealed his intentions throughout the intake process, or formulated them soon after being housed.”




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