Accused killer found hanged in jail cell Titus was charged in slaying of spouse, hiding body in closet

Suicide watch was in force

Protective order had forbidden contact with estranged wife

September 24, 1997|By Mike Farabaugh and Anne Haddad | Mike Farabaugh and Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A Timonium man, who had twice attempted suicide after being charged with killing his estranged wife and hiding her body in a closet at her Hampstead home in May, apparently hanged himself Monday night at the Carroll County Detention Center.

John T. Titus, 33, was pronounced dead in his cell shortly before midnight, about 25 minutes after correctional officers found him at 11: 28 p.m., Sheriff John H. Brown said yesterday.

In a preliminary autopsy completed yesterday, a state medical examiner concluded that Titus, who had been under a suicide watch, died by hanging, said Tracy A. Gilmore, deputy state's attorney for Carroll County.

Brown said jail officials determined that Titus, formerly of the first block of Oakway Road in Timonium, had ripped a piece of denim from a "nontear" one-piece jumpsuit issued to him.

Titus apparently tied the denim to a metal grate covering an air duct on the wall in his cell and used the other end as a noose, Brown said.

Titus, who was 6 feet, 6 inches tall, might have stood on the cell toilet to reach the grate, Brown said.

"Deputies had checked on Titus at 11: 13 p.m. and he was OK," Brown said. "At 11: 28 p.m., they found him and immediately tried to revive him."

Titus had twice tried to cut his wrists and was transferred on Aug. 26 to the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, according to detention center records. The facility is the state's only maximum-security hospital, and inmates who are criminally insane, or who are ordered to undergo mental health evaluation, are routinely sent there.

Cpl. Clarence Lust, who is investigating Titus' death for the sheriff's office, said Titus was returned to the county detention center on Sept. 10.

Gary S. Bernstein, a Baltimore attorney who was representing Titus, said yesterday that his client had wanted to commit suicide.

"It was evident from the way police found him originally," said Bernstein.

Titus was found lying in a tub and appeared to have taken a drug overdose, said police who found him in the home of Patricia A. Titus, 40, in the 4400 block of Utz Road on June 2.

The Titus' two children were found asleep in a bedroom. Minutes later, the body of Mrs. Titus was discovered in a bedroom closet. A state medical examiner determined that she died by strangulation, possibly as early as May 27.

The children -- Tyler, now 2 1/2 , and Taylor, 14 months -- have been living with Patricia Titus' sister and brother-in-law, Nancy and Jan Grove, and their three older children, since two weeks after their mother was found dead.

"They're calling [the Groves] Mom and Dad," said John Biglin, Patricia Titus' brother.

Biglin said he was not surprised to learn of Titus' death, but saddened for Titus' family.

"He had been trying to kill himself prior to him killing my sister," Biglin said. He said Titus had attempted suicide about a week before his sister was found dead.

"It does bring closure to it, to the extent that we're not going to have to go through a trial," Biglin said. "He was the judge and jury of himself, and he sentenced himself to death by killing himself."

A protective order issued Jan. 6 had forbidden Titus to have contact with his estranged wife.

In February, Mrs. Titus wrote in police charging documents that Titus had violated the order, harassing her at home, at work and calling her as many as 20 times a day. She wrote that her husband "lives to drink and do drugs."

District Court records show that Titus was free on $3,500 bail when his wife was killed.

Baltimore County court records show Titus lived in Cockeysville with a woman who alleged in 1990 that he mentally and physically abused her during their relationship and assaulted her after she sought to end it.

The woman is not being named to protect her privacy.

Biglin said he believes the county and state have taken steps toward increasing programs and money to deal with domestic abuse since his sister's death, and that he hopes greater public awareness and action will follow.

"People truly need to know that domestic violence can start out very small and quickly escalate to ruin not only two lives, but hundreds of people who knew them," he said. "The [most] normal family can be thrown into a tailspin."

Titus is the second inmate to die this year at the detention center. Donald K. Lockwood, 38, of Rockville, died of heart failure shortly after visiting hours ended about 9 p.m. Jan. 29.

Pub Date: 9/24/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.