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September 14, 2013

Rockingham County officials probe inmate death

BRENTWOOD — Authorities are investigating the death of a Rockingham County jail inmate after a 67-year-old Malden, Mass., man apparently hanged himself while his cellmate was asleep.

The inmate, Wayne Scappace, was found dead in his cell at 4:40 a.m. last Saturday, according to Sheriff Michael Downing.

He said yesterday his office is investigating the incident, along with the state medical examiner’s office, which is conducting an autopsy.

The death is one of two incidents involving the jail in the last week following the indictment of the former office administrator on theft charges for allegedly padding the paycheck of her husband, a correctional officer.

Downing said Scappace was arrested in Newton and arraigned in 10th Circuit Court in Plaistow the day before his death for allegedly violating a protective order in a domestic violence case.

He had only been at the jail for about 11 hours and was on a 15-minute suicide watch, standard protocol for an inmate’s first 24 hours, according to County Commissioner Thomas Tombarello.

Scappace apparently tied a bed sheet to a vent and hanged himself. His cellmate slept through it.

After jail workers found Scappace, they tried to revive him with a defibrillator, but could not.

The last time an inmate committed suicide at the jail was four years ago, Downing said. The county’s three commissioners oversee the jail and Superintendent Stephen Church, who could not be reached for comment.

Although each cellblock is monitored by a camera and jail guard, Tombarello and Commissioner Kevin Coyle said it’s not always possible to stop an inmate determined to take his own life.

The two commissioners, who are both in law enforcement, said suicides are not uncommon in their line of work.

Tombarello has been a deputy sheriff in Massachusetts for 14 years and Coyle is a prosecutor for the Londonderry Police Department.

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