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Friday, January 17, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Spokane County Jail inmate dies after jump from guardrail

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 9, 2019

A man accused of causing his mother’s drug overdose jumped to his death Friday from a railing inside the Spokane County Jail.

Robert A. Taitch, 33, had been in custody since Wednesday for controlled substance homicide, violating a no-contact order, assault and theft.

Taitch died by apparent suicide Friday after he climbed a guardrail and jumped headfirst, landing on a cement floor 13 feet below, according to a news release. Jail staff attempted to save his life, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is investigating his death.

Spokane County Jail Director Mike Sparber said Taitch wasn’t on suicide watch before his death and his cell was on the second floor.

Taitch was described as transient, unstable and mentally ill by a family member in a Spokesman-Review story in June about his mother’s death.

First responders say when they arrived at 64-year-old Sharon Simpson-White’s apartment in June, they found the words “die” and “kill” carved into the wall. Taitch reportedly became agitated when they began CPR, saying he “did not want his mother to be revived” and that “this was what she wanted.”

Police suspected he administered a lethal dose of heroin or methamphetamine to his mother.

According to Spokesman-Review archives, Taitch isn’t the first inmate to die after jumping from a railing in the Spokane County Jail. In May 1998, a 22-year-old man dove from the railing of a second-floor walkway. He broke his neck and died in a hospital the next day.

In June of the same year, a 30-year-old jumped backward from a railing, landing on his back. He also died in a hospital the next day.

At least three other inmates have attempted suicide by jumping from a railing, one in 2002, one in 2004 and one in 2006, according to Spokesman-Review archives.

Sparber said he was concerned once word gets out an inmate was able to take his own life by jumping from a guardrail, others would attempt it as well.

Installing chain link or other barriers along railings could interrupt corrections officers’ line of sight, he said, so he’s looking at alternatives.

He said he has asked jail staff to find out how much it would cost to install bars on the railing that would go up to the ceiling and he is waiting to hear back on the project. He anticipates the first set of ceiling-high bars would be on the second floor and he would evaluate if they should be installed throughout the rest of the jail.

“I’m doing my best to get ahead of it,” he said.

Over the past few decades, Spokane County’s jail has faced issues with overcrowding, suicides, drug overdoses and other health issues. The downtown jail was designed for 460 inmates. On Friday, it housed 672 inmates.

Taitch is the 14th inmate to die in Spokane County Jail custody since 2015. The last reported inmate death was a woman who died of an opioid overdose in June. The Spokane County Jail also stopped issuing bedsheets last year after three inmates used them to take their own lives in a year.

Sparber said he anticipates new body scanners that will detect drugs will be operational by January, and he expects a mail scanner that will detect drugs will arrive next week.

“We do our best to cover all our bases, but we can’t think of everything,” Sparber said.

According to a report on jail deaths in Washington from Columbia Legal Services, suicides make up 85% of the deaths that occur within the first 72 hours of admission.

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