New York, NY – Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s cause of death is pending despite completion of the autopsy on Sunday because the medical examiner found a broken bone in his neck that is more commonly the result of homicide.
Epstein died of what officials have called “apparent suicide” on Saturday at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) where he was being held while facing charges for sexually abusing and trafficking children, The Washington Post reported.
Correctional officers found the 66-year-old Tier 3 sex offender hanging in his cell at around 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, according to ABC News.
Epstein was transported to New York Downtown Hospital in cardiac arrest before he was declared dead.
The billionaire had been placed on a suicide watch after authorities believed he tried to kill himself on July 23, shortly after he was denied bail, The New York Times reported.
He was taken off suicide watch just six days later and returned to the cell he shared with another prisoner in 9 South, a special housing unit (SHU) inside the MCC.
But his roommate was removed from his cell a short time later.
Despite the fact that it is protocol to put a prisoner who has just been taken off suicide watch in a cell with another prisoner, Epstein didn’t get a new roommate before he allegedly killed himself, The New York Times reported.
Two prison officials have said that the staff members on duty the night Epstein tried to kill himself were supposed to be checking on him every 30 minutes, but had not looked in on him for three hours before he was found hanging.
Officials said that the employees had falsely recorded checks every 30 minutes in the logbook.
Three different officials told The New York Times that both employees had been asleep some, or all, of the three-hour period that preceded them finding Epstein hanging from his upper bunk by a bedsheet.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said he was “appalled” at the serious “irregularities” in the detention center’s protocol, The Washington Post reported.
On Monday, Barr ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Inspector General to conduct investigations into Epstein’s death in custody, The New York Times reported.
MCC Warden Lamine N’Diaye was transferred to a Bureau of Prisons office in Philadelphia while the alleged suicide and the circumstances surrounding it are investigated by federal authorities.
New York City Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson completed Epstein’s autopsy on Sunday, The Washington Post reported.
Sources familiar with the findings of the autopsy said the medical examiner found multiple breaks in Epstein’s neck bones.
One of the broken bones was the hyoid, which is more common in victims of homicide by strangulation than in suicide, The Washington Post reported.
Sampson said that no single factor in the autopsy could conclusively prove what happened to the dead billionaire.
“In all forensic investigations, all information must be synthesized to determine the cause and manner of death. Everything must be consistent; no single finding can be evaluated in a vacuum,” the medical examiner said.
National Association of Medical Examiners President Jonathan Arden said that, generally speaking, finding a broken hyoid bone means the pathologist will need to do a more thorough investigation, The Washington Post reported.
“If, hypothetically, the hyoid bone is broken, that would generally raise questions about strangulation, but it is not definitive and does not exclude suicidal hanging,” Arden said.
Broken hyoids have sparked controversy in a number of suspicious deaths.
The hyoid played a major role in the investigation of Eric Garner’s death after New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer Daniel Pantaleo was accused of using an improper chokehold as he was taking the big man into custody, The Washington Post reported.
It took four years for Officer Pantaleo’s attorneys to get their hands on Garner’s autopsy report which said the hyoid bone was still intact after his death.
NYPD Chief Surgeon Eli Kleinman also concluded that there were no injuries to Garner’s neck or trachea consistent with the application of a chokehold, the New York Daily News reported.
Despite all that evidence, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado issued a non-binding verdict that said Officer Pantaleo had violated department policy regarding the use of chokeholds and recommended that he be fired,
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill is expected to make a decision regarding Officer Pantaleo before the end of the month.