Police are investigating Howard inmate's death

Maryland

September 29, 2006|By Melissa Harris and Tyrone Richardson | Melissa Harris and Tyrone Richardson,SUN REPORTERS

Howard County police are investigating the death of a 24-year-old Howard County Detention Center inmate who apparently hanged himself using a bedsheet Tuesday and died that night at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

The death of Vaughn Hairston of Columbia came less than a year after Melanie C. Pereira, the jail director, issued a suicide prevention plan in response to the deaths of two inmates who hanged themselves last year and another who suffered an acute lung infection after a suicide attempt.

Pereira referred questions about the latest incident to county spokeswoman Victoria Goodman, who announced the death yesterday and declined to comment further.

Hairston's mother, Flora Hairston, said that her son had bipolar disorder and was taking medication when he entered the detention center in March to await trial on a number of charges, including second-degree rape. Her son told her that inmates were harassing and assaulting him and that he had stopped taking his medication because it made him lethargic and vulnerable.

Hairston said she met with her son hours before officials said he killed himself. He was scheduled to appear Oct. 3 in Howard County Circuit Court.

"He told me, `Mom, if you don't get me out of here quick, you may lose your son,'" she said. "He was in fear of some people, and he had to watch his back."

County officials said Vaughn Hairston was taken by ambulance to Howard County General Hospital at 2:25 p.m. Tuesday after an apparent suicide attempt. He was later flown to Shock Trauma, where he died shortly after 11 p.m.

Pereira said yesterday that in response to the previous hangings, she has removed brass handles from bunk beds and cages from sprinkler heads, but could not remove cages from all of the windows because of security concerns.

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

tyrone.richardson@baltsun.com

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