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Sheriff's Office: Inmate kills himself

By JAMIE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 11, 2003

LAND O'LAKES -- Norman Ayoub had been trying to kill himself for years.

He felt psychotic, depressed.

"The anxiety is too much. I can't take it anymore," he told a deputy Oct. 9 before threatening to kill himself.

Ayoub succeeded Wednesday night, said sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll.

Corrections officers found him lying on the floor of a cell at the Land O'Lakes jail, a sheet wrapped around his neck. He killed himself during an eight-minute break between routine checks, Doll said.

Ayoub was admitted to the jail March 31 after violating his probation on attempted burglary and grand theft charges, records show.

He was transferred Monday to the medical unit after making a suicidal statement, Doll said. He was to be checked every 15 minutes, and an officer looked in on Ayoub at 11:06 p.m. Wednesday, Doll said. At 11:14 p.m., another officer saw Ayoub, collapsed on the floor, Doll said.

Officers began CPR and paramedics arrived. Ayoub, 34, a disabled man who lived in Hudson, was pronounced dead at 11:28 p.m.

The Sheriff's Office is conducting a criminal investigation into Ayoub's death, routine procedure for any suspected suicide. Detectives will look into whether corrections officers took proper care of Ayoub. Additionally, the agency will conduct an internal investigation to review this specific case and overall policies, Doll said.

Doll declined to discuss what statements Ayoub made before he was placed in the medical wing. Doll also would not comment on whether Ayoub had seen a mental health specialist, or how often he was evaluated by nurses or doctors. Doll said he could not discuss the case in detail because of the ongoing investigation.

Ayoub would be the fourth inmate to die from suicide at the Land O'Lakes jail since it opened in 1991, Doll said. The other three inmates died from hanging, he said.

Ayoub was not on "suicide watch," activated after an inmate attempts suicide or appears imminently suicidal, Doll said. The watch requires constant supervision.

Lindsay M. Hayes, a leading expert in jail suicide, said the Pasco County policies appear to mirror national guidelines.

Until a suspected suicide has been thoroughly investigated, it's hard to tell whether officers could have prevented an inmate death, said Hayes, assistant director for the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, a nonprofit agency based in Virginia.

"Certainly there are jail suicides that occur and are not preventable," Hayes said.

But far too often, Hayes said, inmate suicides are preventable.

Hayes said staff training is key.

Doll could not immediately say on Thursday what training officers receive for mental health issues.

The public records of Ayoub's life show a man who struggled with depression and addiction.

In January 2000, Ayoub walked into a Walgreens on U.S. 19 wearing a trench coat. He pulled out a pocket-size piece of paper and pushed it across the pharmacy counter.

"Give me 100 Morphine tablets or I will shoot," the note said.

The pharmacists, who had seen Ayoub around the store, told him to leave. He did.

In February 2002, Ayoub told a deputy he was mentally exhausted.

Last October, Ayoub tried to overdose on pills.

He said apathy was making him depressed.

Wayne Druda, who lives in New Port Richey and was Ayoub's roommate for 11 months, said he was sorry to hear about his friend's death.

"He had problems like everyone else," Druda said Thursday. "But he was a nice guy, loving. He came across as always wanting to be a friend."

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