The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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July 10, 2014

County jail failed suicidal husband, young widow says

— SUNBURY — Five days into another stint at Northumberland County Prison, Cyrus Lewis, a depressed heroin addict, was able to do on the inside what he failed to do on the outside.

Kill himself.

The signs were there, says his wife, Hope, and missed by prison staff.

“They all knew he was suicidal,” the Shamokin nurse said Tuesday of prison workers.

“He was in and out of jail there and he had issues with guards. He would say all the time that some of them would pick on him and tease him, so he really didn’t want to be in prison, but he had a drug addiction.”

Attempted suicide in crash

In the days before June 15, when Lewis was found hanging in his cell, he had stolen his wife’s Dodge Neon and smashed it into a tree to try to kill himself, he told his wife after the crash.

After the unsuccessful attempt, Lewis walked out of a Valley hospital and sought out the drug that would ease his pain.

Heroin.

His wife had tried to get Lewis help through various treatment programs, but not before Lewis was caught by Shamokin police trying to steal a vehicle at a city gasoline station and sent to Northumberland County Prison, with heroin still in his body, his wife said.

“The prison knew he had heroin in his system and he was detoxifying, so why wasn’t he watched more closely?” Hope Lewis asked.

Within five days, he became the second inmate to kill himself by hanging inside the lockup since August.

“I got a phone call from (Sunbury acting Chief) Brad Hare asking me to come to the Sunbury Community Hospital,” she said. “When I got there I was informed that my husband had killed himself while in the care of the prison.”

Warden Roy Johnson and Rick Shoch, a Northumberland County commissioner and vice chairman of the prison board, have said that measures pertaining to both suicides were handled correctly and all protocols were followed.

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