Advertisement

Police not at fault in suicide case

Newport Beach man who hanged himself in the city's jail was battling depression, report says.

March 15, 2011|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com

Less than an hour before he hanged himself in a holding cell at Newport Beach police headquarters, an inmate called his family to say goodbye, according to a report from the Orange County district attorneys' office released Tuesday.

The report cleared the police department of any negligence in the in-custody death last summer of William Robert Wedgeworth, 43, of Newport Beach, whom officers had arrested for alleged domestic violence.

In a letter to Police Chief Jay Johnson dated March 7, district attorney investigators concluded that officers were not culpable when Wedgeworth killed himself inside his cell at the headquarters on Santa Barbara Drive, sometime between 9 and 10 p.m. on July 31.

Advertisement

Wedgeworth's family has filed multiple claims against the city seeking upward of $34 million from his death. City Atty. David Hunt said earlier this year that the city rejected the claims.

According to the district attorney's report, a distraught Wedgeworth called his house from the city jail at 8:59 p.m. that night to see if his wife would get him out of jail. She said she couldn't afford it, so Wedgeworth asked to speak with his daughters to say his "last goodbyes."

Though jail phone calls are recorded, they're not actively monitored by police personnel. Authorities didn't learn the nature of his call until after the fact, and Wedgeworth's wife never called police after hanging up, according to the report.

"Mrs. Wedgeworth believed Wedgeworth was distraught over his arrest, but based on similar comments Wedgeworth had made on previous incidents, she did not believe he would commit suicide," the letter stated.

Investigators said Wedgeworth told his 8-year-old daughter he would not live through the night, then talked to his wife again and blamed her for ruining his life.

According to the investigators' letter, Wedgeworth had been battling depression and hadn't been able to hold down a job for the last seven years. He would break down in public and private, and continually refused to seek treatment despite pleas from loved ones.

In 2006, Wedgeworth's father died and he became inconsolable for days. His sadness would turn to rage, and Newport Beach police were called to his house several times, officials said.

On the day he died, wife Sandy Wedgeworth called police after he allegedly threw her onto the couch and grabbed her hair.

After initially saying she didn't want him arrested for domestic violence, she reversed herself and had him taken into custody. Responding officers never saw Wedgeworth do or say anything to indicate that he was suicidal, the report states. In fact, before being taken into custody, Wedgeworth told police he planned on taking his daughters to Legoland.

In her claim against the city, Sandy Wedgeworth claims she told police she wanted her husband hospitalized, not arrested.

As he was being booked, Wedgeworth told police he was not a danger to himself or others, the report states.

Wedgeworth, who was the only city jail inmate that night, was found hanging from his bedsheet at 10 p.m. Methamphetamine and other drugs were found in his blood, according to the coroner's toxicology report.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|