MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -
The Rutherford County Jail is investigating its second inmate suicide in the course of a week.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said 54-year-old inmate Michael J. Murray hanged himself on Saturday afternoon while in the custody of the sheriff's office.
Murray had been arrested for three charges of sexual battery by an authority figure and solicitation of aggravated sexual battery.
The TBI said jail personnel found Murray unresponsive in his cell during recreation time.
He was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
"We extend our heart-felt sympathy to the inmate’s family. They are in our prayers," said Sheriff Robert Arnold in a statement.
Arnold said they are handing over the investigation to the TBI.
This is the second inmate suicide they've had in a week. Jonathan Maxwell hanged himself with a telephone cord while in a holding cell last week. The TBI is investigating that as well.
Many questions remain, especially why these two men were left alone long enough to hang themselves.
“We’re treating each of these cases as independent,” said Josh Devine with the TBI.
TBI officials said they will hand over their findings to the district attorney for further review.
The TBI will be investigating the inmates’ deaths only, not the jail’s policies.
Dana DiBattiste said she witnessed Maxwell’s suicide. She questioned whether jail employees were paying attention.
“They were all sitting at the desk the whole time,” DiBattiste said.
She said 45 minutes went by before jail deputies noticed the death.
“Why didn’t anybody see it? I don’t understand, because there are plenty of monitors,” DiBattiste said.
Alex Friedmann with the Human Rights Defense Center said one suicide is too many, but two is a sign that something is wrong.
“Jail is a very traumatic experience for people. It is when people are at their most vulnerable,” Friedmann said. “And we need to ensure that there are adequate policies and procedures in place at this jail in particular to see that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”
A criminal justice research center said newly processed inmates should be closely screened and monitored because they are the most likely to commit suicide. More than half the inmate suicides involved people who had been in for less than two weeks.