Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead on Saturday after an apparent suicide in the New York jail cell where he was being held without bail on sex-trafficking charges, and a source said he was not on suicide watch at the time of his death.
Epstein, 66, was found unresponsive in his cell in the Special Housing Unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center and transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which operates the lower Manhattan jail, said in a statement.
The source, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said Epstein, a well-connected money manager known for socializing with politicians and royalty, was found hanging by his neck.
The FBI and the Department of Justice’s Inspector General were opening investigations, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said, adding that he was “appalled” to learn of his death in federal custody.
Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Barr said in a statement.
Last month, Epstein was found unconscious on the floor of his jail cell with marks on his neck, according to media reports, and officials were investigating that incident as a possible suicide or assault.
Even so, Epstein had recently been taken off suicide watch, a special set of procedures for inmates in danger of taking their own life, according to the source, who said the financier was in a cell by himself when his body was found.
Aja Davis, a spokeswoman for the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said she could not say how Epstein died before her office examined the body.
Epstein was arrested on July 6 at a New Jersey airport on return from Paris. He pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls as young as 14, from at least 2002 to 2005, an indictment that followed years of sexual abuse allegations against him.
It was not immediately clear why Epstein was taken off suicide watch, and officials did not respond to requests for comment.
At the MCC, two jail guards are required to make separate checks on all prisoners every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not followed overnight, according to the source, who was not authorized to speak on the record.
In addition, every 15 minutes guards are required to make another check on prisoners who are on suicide watch. (Reuters)