Inmate found hanging in Tazewell County cell
A Tazewell County Justice Center inmate was found hanging in his cell Monday in what officials say may have been a suicide.
Tazewell County Sheriff Robert Huston said Bradley Scott Alexander, 35, of Bloomington, was found by an inmate who shared a cell with him after the inmate returned from laundry call at 2:47 p.m. Monday.
Alexander was incarcerated at the jail on March 20 on a burglary charge and remained there pending a payment of $5,000 — 10 percent of his $50,000 bond, Huston said.
The other inmate immediately screamed for help, Huston said, and several corrections officers responded and started CPR. Advanced Medical Transport and Pekin Fire Department rescue units responded and took over the revival efforts, but they were unsuccessful, he said.
Tazewell County Coroner Dennis Conover responded to the scene and pronounced Alexander dead at 3:20 p.m. An autopsy was performed Tuesday.
An inquest into the cause and manner of Alexander’s death will be scheduled at a later date, Conover said.
Illinois State Police crime scene unit investigators were at the scene late Monday afternoon. Huston said it is standard procedure for the state police to handle internal investigations at the department. The Tazewell County State’s Attorney’s Office was also notified of the death.
Huston said Alexander’s cellmate was the last person to see him alive, at 2:24 p.m. Alexander was found 23 minutes later hanging by a cloth from a piece of bedding or clothing. Huston declined to reveal what the cloth was tied to because he said other inmates might get ideas.
The pod corrections officer saw Alexander at 2:13 p.m. during an inmate count. After the count, inmates were engaged in a laundry exchange, where Alexander was seen before he went back to his cell to make his bed, Huston said.
He said the times of events prior to the discovery of Alexander’s body have been corroborated by video surveillance of the area outside his cell.
If Alexander’s death is ruled a suicide, it would be the first suicide by a Tazewell County inmate since the new justice center opened in 2003. It would also be the first suicide since Huston’s election as sheriff in 1998.
An inmate committed suicide by hanging under former Sheriff Ralph Hodgson.
Stephen C. Carson, 27, was found dead at 6:50 a.m. on Jan 23, 1998, in his cell. Carson hanged himself with a strip of his cell blanket. Autopsy results indicated that he had died between 4:30 and 9:30 p.m. the night before. Ultimately, it was determined that the jailers had not been performing checks every 30 minutes as required by law.
Huston said there have been five serious suicide attempts by inmates since the new jail opened. All of those inmates were saved by corrections officers. There were two serious attempts at the old jail after Carson’s death, Huston said, and those inmates were also saved by corrections officers.
Huston said the justice center was built to be as suicide-proof as possible.
“When we built this facility, that is one thing everyone was sensitive to,” he said. “Every effort was made to make things a difficult as possible to commit suicide.
“We looked at everything. But if someone is absolutely determined to commit suicide, it might be impossible to stop them.”
Counselors responded to the jail Monday to help inmates and the corrections officers deal with the death, Huston said.
He said the corrections officer in charge of the pod housing Alexander was relieved of duty Monday.
“This is a new officer who has likely never experienced anything like this before,” he said. “Basically, it affected him. We gave his a recuperative leave. We’ll see how he’s doing and make decisions from that.”
Huston said the other corrections officers who worked to save Alexander were also visibly shaken but remained on the job after his death.
“I was in the cell block when those officers were relieved by fire and rescue,” Huston said. “Those officers were visibly shaken and worn out from vigorous attempts to revive him.
“I watched the video of the response, and officers were there in seconds. I can’t say enough good of the attempts of these officers to save him.”
Sharon Woods Harris can be reached at email@example.com.