Inmate at Bollinger County Jail kills self with razor, sheriff says

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- A 55-year-old Marble Hill man being held in the Bollinger County Jail on seven charges, including assault on a law enforcement officer, reportedly killed himself in his cell early Tuesday morning.

A dispatcher found Charles Daniel Hovis in his cell bleeding heavily from wounds to his left arm about 3:15 a.m. and called a deputy for help, Sheriff Leo McElrath said.

The deputy, who was not on duty, arrived at the scene about eight minutes later, McElrath said. He entered the cell and provided medical attention to Hovis, who was then transported by ambulance to Saint Francis Medical Center, where he died, McElrath said. Hovis had been alone in his cell, McElrath said.

"He found something sharp and he cut his arm and bled out, bled severely," McElrath said. "The doctors tried to save him, but he died."

Bollinger County Coroner Charles Hutchings said an autopsy was performed late Tuesday afternoon.

"We have what appears to be a suicide by use of a sharp object," Hutchings said after the autopsy. "He died from what is officially a self-inflicted injury."

There were two lacerations to Hovis' left arm, just below his elbow, Hutchings said.

The location of the cuts was unusual, he said.

"The death would have been in a matter of minutes," Hutchings said. "I don't see anything the man on duty could have done to prevent this."

McElrath said the dispatcher acts as a jailer overnight. Dispatchers walk through the block, checking cells every half-hour, he said.

"He was fine one check, the next check he was sitting on his bunk bleeding," McElrath said.

Because dispatchers are not trained police officers, they are not allowed to open the cell doors, McElrath said. The dispatchers have not been trained to deal with traumatic injury.

"All he can do is call an officer. The deputy came from home. Luckily, we had one right here in town," McElrath said.

McElrath said Hovis had cut himself with a razor blade or part of a razor blade. It was unclear Tuesday afternoon where he got the razor. McElrath said the razor was old and hadn't been issued to Hovis for shaving.

"I don't know where he got it. He had just been returned from another facility," McElrath said.

Hovis was transferred from the Cape Girardeau County Jail to Bollinger County on May 15, Cape Girardeau County officials said.

Hutchings is investigating the incident. The coroner investigates any fatal incidents in the jail, McElrath said.

The sheriff's department is also conducting an internal investigation. No employees had been placed on leave Tuesday afternoon.

McElrath said there had been no fatalities at the facility since at least 2005, when he was the department's chief deputy.

According to online court records, Hovis was in the jail awaiting a preliminary hearing on seven charges. He was accused of three felonies -- assault on a law enforcement officer, a second-degree felony, and two counts of possession of a controlled substance. He was also charged with four misdemeanors.

A probable-cause statement said Bollinger County deputy Alan Stevens noticed a black Chevrolet Silverado traveling in the middle of Bollinger County Road 802 just before 2 a.m. April 9. Stevens attempted to stop the vehicle, which fled at a high rate of speed, the statement said.

Stevens followed the pickup, which pulled into a private drive. Hovis leaned out the driver-side window, pointed a chrome handgun at Stevens and yelled profanities, the statement said. Stevens ordered Hovis to drop the weapon out the window. Hovis complied and was then arrested.

A search of the pickup revealed hydrocodone pills, the statement said.

jgamm@semissourian.com

573-388-3635

Pertinent address:

202 High St., Marble Hill, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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