County inmate dies
By Blenda Copeland
James Francis Devitt, 33, died Aug. 16 at the Russell County Sheriff’s Office.
Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor announced Devitt’s death Aug. 17, confirmed by County Coroner Arthur Sumbry Jr., during a media conference in which he said circumstances appeared to show Devitt died by suicide (hanging).
Taylor said suicide ran in Devitt’s family history. He also said Devitt had previously been on suicide watch, had seen a psychiatrist, and had signed a waiver that he was OK. He also had been given his medication, Taylor said.
Taylor said it was obvious Devitt still had some family issues, which he declined to elaborate on, out of respect for the family’s privacy.
He said Devitt was two days shy of having served one month at the jail. He was arrested by the Phenix City Police Department and booked into the jail July 18. He was officially listed as being homeless. Taylor said he had lived in the area for a while.
Authorities were first alerted of Devitt’s death by an inmate that had passed by his cell and noticed something was wrong. He was being held in a private cell and reportedly left “goodbye” notes to family and another inmate he had befriended. It appeared he had felt guilt over some things in his past and had been feeling a little depressed lately, the sheriff said.
Taylor said the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) has been contacted and Devitt’s body has been sent to the state crime lab for an autopsy.
Taylor noted that once an inmate signs a hold harmless waiver, certain protocols are followed, but usually, the inmate is released back into the general jail population. Despite protocols and precautions taken, he said it is difficult to prevent in every case a suicide from occurring.
Taylor expressed his condolences to Devitt’s family during this difficult time.
The next of kin has been notified.