Howard police call jail death likely suicide Deaf, homeless man found hanging in cell

December 21, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun

A deaf, homeless man, isolated from other inmates at the Howard County jail in Jessup for disciplinary reasons, died yesterday afternoon after being found hanging from a sheet in his cell.

Paul Chapman, 19, was pronounced dead at Howard County General Hospital in Columbia shortly after he was found at 3:20 p.m., according to James N. Rollins, director of county corrections.

Police said that they were investigating the incident as an unattended death, but that it appeared to have been a suicide. Mr. Chapman had a history of minor psychological problems, according to Mr. Rollins.

Mr. Chapman was arrested last month on charges of disorderly conduct and making a false statement about a bomb. The disorderly conduct charge was dropped this week, but he remained in jail in lieu of $1,000 bail on the other charge, Mr. Rollins said.

"He was an inmate without a home," he said. "We tried to place him in residential settings at Springfield State Hospital and in Frederick County without success. If we could have found a place for him, there was a good chance the remaining charge would have been dropped."

Mr. Chapman was placed in segregation Dec. 6 because he had argued with jail employees and had broken a water spigot and lights.

He saw a psychiatrist Nov. 29 who indicated he was "a little tense but nothing abnormal," Mr. Rollins said. He said Mr. Chapman had seen a physician Dec. 12 and a nurse yesterday who did not find him despondent.

Mr. Chapman was checked by guards every half hour, Mr. Rollins said. "There is no indication that the officers did not follow the normal procedures," he said.

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