The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

August 21, 2013

Coroner: Inmate death was a suicide

SUNBURY — More than a week after a Paxinos inmate was discovered hanging in his cell in the Northumberland County Prison, Coroner James F. Kelley has ruled Andrew Beers’ death a suicide.

The body of Beers, 27, was found by guards around 5:45 p.m. Aug. 13 and was taken to Sunbury Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Kelley said.

Kelley and Chief Deputy James Gotlob needed several days to investigate, and although the death has been ruled a suicide, Kelley said he was not sure what had happened when the incident occurred.

That’s why the coroner asked for city police to assist him. Gotlob called Sunbury police from the hospital and was told they would not be investigating the hanging.

After some finger-pointing by county and city officials, Kelley said he spoke with Sunbury Police Chief Steve Mazzeo and Mayor David Persing about what can be expected in the future.

“We had a good conversation, and we are working on some things to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Kelley said. “We want to make sure we are all on the same page.”

After the initial call came through the county 911 center, Sunbury police arrived at the jail but did not enter because of a misunderstanding between the city and county, Persing said.

Five days ago, Kelley was called to the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township for a death. Although the coroner did not know the cause of the death at the time, state police at Stonington arrived and assisted with the investigation, Kelley said.

It turned out that a 72-year old man had died of natural causes, but Kelley said he wanted to thank state police for the immediate response.

Northumberland County Commissioner and prison board Chairman Steve Bridy said he has been discussing the misunderstanding with Persing and Mazzeo.

“I was concerned about some of things I was hearing and reading from memos coming out of the police department, and I am going to take the mayor and Councilman Jim Eister’s word that we will get the police coverage when we need it,” Bridy said. “They are the leaders of the city, and the chief has to answer to the mayor. Whatever is going on with them in the city is not a county issue. We want what our taxpayers are paying for, and that’s service.”

n Email comments to fscarcella@dailyitem.com.

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