1. Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith. Family photo.
By the time 19 year old Ashley Smith strangled herself on October 19, 2007, she had created quite a path of heartbreak and mayhem throughout Ontario, Canada. By the time Smith was 15 she had been in juvenile court 14 times. Over the next three years, Smith was involved in more than 800 incidents, both major and minor, and she had attempted to harm herself more than 150 times. When she turned 18 Smith was transferred from the juvenile system to Canada’s adult criminal justice system. In the months leading up to her suicide she was transferred numerous times between eight federal institutions. Smith finally succeeded in ending her life on October 19, 2007 at Ontario’s Grand Valley Institution for Women. Upon admittance to Grand Valley Smith requested psychiatric care, and was then put on suicide watch. Regardless of nearly continuous video surveillance by guards, Smith managed to garrote herself with a strip of cloth. Despite her lack of movement on camera, several hours passed before guards entered her cell and confirmed her death. Ashley Smith’s family filed a lawsuit against the Canadian Correctional Service; the court proceeding ended after a mistrial was declared in September 2011. A new trial is scheduled to begin during September 2012.
2. Christopher Britton
Christopher Britton of Richland, WA, told his jailers that he was suicidal. Britton, 29, was arrested on August 4, 2012, for obstructing justice and for two outstanding warrants. He was being held in the Benton County Jail
when, two days after his arrest, he hanged himself. According to Sherrif Steve Keene, “[Britton] stated he was suicidal and he was put in a safety room where protocols were initiated to provide frequent safety checks,” which took place approximately every 30 minutes. Deputies looked in on Britton at 7:07. At 7:28 Britton was “found hanging from the cell’s door.” In addition to removing prisoners’ shoelaces, belts, and often replacing their clothes with paper garments, most suicide watch rooms are constructed so that inmates can’t hang themselves, the most common method of inmate suicide. Britton was wearing the jail’s standard paper smock, but managed to skirt the suicide preventions measures by using a portion of his safety blanket to fashion a noose. He then threaded the fabric through the small holes in the wall used for inmate/guard communication.
3. Peter Foster
Peter Foster. Police photo.
The Lewes Jail in East Sussex, England, has seen a rash of inmate suicides. According to The Sun
, Peter Foster, 36, became the third inmate to commit suicide at the jail in 2012. Foster, a former police officer, was convicted of killing his girlfriend, Detective Heather Cooper, 33, by beating her with a baseball bat before stabbing her in the throat. He killed the woman as their son and daughter watched, and then Foster tried to hide Cooper’s body in the woods. Foster was sentenced to 17 years for the killing. According to authorities, Foster hanged himself in the early hours of July 30, 2012. Two other inmates managed to kill themselves while incarcerated at the prison during July 2012.
4. William Goetzee
“I want to kill myself, give me your gun,” William Goetzee allegedly said as he tried to unholster a police officer’s sidearm outside a New Orleans courthouse in August 2011. According to The New Orleans Times Picayune
, Goetzee, 48, “approached the passenger side of a marked Federal Protective Services vehicle shortly before 11 a.m., opened the door and sat inside.” Goetzee then took a breath and reached for the officer’s weapon. Goetzee was arrested and placed on suicide watch, where he was supposed to be under observation 24 hours a day; however, the deputy assigned to watch Goetzee left his station. Goetzee seized the opportunity and killed himself by ingesting a large amount of toilet paper, ultimately asphyxiating himself. The Orleans Parish jail, where Goetzee was being held, had previously been criticized by the U.S. Department of Justice for “unconstitutional” conditions, with particular condemnation being leveled at the jail’s inadequate psychiatric care facilities. The deputy who failed to properly observe Goetzee will be sentenced for a “felony charge of malfeasance in office
” in late September 2012.
5. William Overbey
William Overbey. Police photo.
Most inmates commit suicide by finding some way to hang themselves. William Overbey, 45, didn’t follow this macabre, but standard, procedure. On July 12, 2011, while being held in the Licking County, Ohio jail, Overbey leapt to his death from the “upper tier of a housing module at the jail.” Overbey sustained serious head trauma during his fall, and despite the quick response of emergency services he died later that night. According to reports, Overbey leapt as a guard approached him to inquire about his mental status—Overbey was on suicide watch, but not the strictest form of the preventative measure. Overbey was charged with felonious assault and child endangering. According to the girl who filed the criminal complaint, Overbey allegedly beat her when she failed to complete her chores. When she returned from school on April 27, 2011, Overbey allegedly confronted her about her unfinished housework, then grabbed her by her hair and threw her onto a bed. She then claims that Overbey hit her head and face more than twenty times.
Chilling Final Photos of Murder Victims Taken by Their Killers