Peoria jail suicide did not show signs of mental distress, sheriff says

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The man who committed suicide at Peoria County Jail over the weekend did not show signs of mental distress, the sheriff said Monday, Feb. 15.

Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell said in his 26 years in corrections, every suicide has been someone who didn’t present initial signs of self-harm.

Michael Dyer, 59, was found hanging in his cell Saturday morning from an apparent suicide, according to the coroner. He was facing charges of first-degree murder in the death of Jeffrey Blevins, 49, and had been held in jail on a $1.5 million bond since Jan. 26.

“This is a situation where it’s unknown, and unfortunately every suicide that I’ve ever worked inside this facility, that is typically the case,” said Asbell.

He said anyone that has any signs of self-harm is placed on a strict protocol, but the regular protocol is to check every 30 minutes.

“You only need three minutes to end life….So even if you did a check and you walked away and you came back five minutes later…Something could happen,” he said.

Asbell said correctional facilities have turned into “de facto mental health centers,” and estimated more than 70% of the Peoria jail population has some form of mental illness ranging from situational to more severe.

“You can’t get into someone’s head and try to decide or try to figure out what they’re going to do, and it’s a balance between maintaining detainee rights…And I mean, you’re not going to place everyone on solitary confinement and give him no access just because there’s a potential risk of someone hurting themselves,” he said.

Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood said it’s a myth that a singular event triggers a suicide.

“Most often, the research will show us that there’s it’s usually a compilation of things that have occurred, and then another event will happen, and then they decide that they can’t move forward any longer, so it’s there’s a lot of things that go into it,” Harwood said.

The death is under investigation by the Illinois State Police and the Peoria County Coroner’s office.

Dyer was to be arraigned February 25.

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