Prisoner's suicide called avoidable Mother of inmate, 23, who hanged himself faults Balto. Co. jail

October 13, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

A Hamilton woman whose son killed himself while alone in his cell at the Baltimore County Detention Center on Saturday said yesterday that the jail's guards should have known he had a history of depression and needed to be carefully monitored.

"I think this could have been prevented," said Gloria Batten, whose son, Laurie Wade Batten, 23, was found dead about 7 p.m. Saturday.

The state medical examiner yesterday ruled the death a suicide by hanging.

"Why wasn't somebody there for him?" Gloria Batten asked, adding that the family has hired an attorney to investigate. "To think that this would happen in jail. You put him in a place where you think he won't hurt nobody, and then there's no him."

Sgt. Kevin B. Novak, a spokesman for county police, said, "The initial walk-through found no red flags. But this is by no means a regular occurrence. Any death of anybody in police custody would have to be looked into, to see if there's something we could do differently."

It was unclear yesterday whether detention center employees knew Batten's medical background or whether he was being watched to be sure he did not harm himself, Novak said.

Batten had suffered depression since childhood, was addicted to cocaine and had been arrested several times -- a record that should have alerted authorities to his condition, his mother said.

He was arrested Tuesday on theft, burglary and drug charges and was awaiting trial, she said. He was suspected of having broken into his sister's home, she said.

Relatives and neighbors in the 4400 block of Powell Ave. in Northeast Baltimore described Batten as a friendly man and talented artist, who had fought depression and tried to end his drug addiction for years.

"He was a nice kid in the neighborhood," said Jeannette Fountain, a longtime neighbor.

Batten, who was not working at the time of his arrest, tended lawns this summer, Fountain said.

His body was discovered after an inmate in another cell told guards Batten had not responded to conversation, Novak said. He was pronounced dead at St. Joseph Medical Center.

The funeral has not been scheduled, his mother said.

Pub Date: 10/13/97

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