Jeffrey Epstein, the accused child trafficker and registered sex offender, was alone in his Manhattan jail cell, not on suicide watch or receiving regular check-ins, when he died in an apparent suicide on Saturday, the New York Times reported Sunday.
His death, which came weeks after he was found semi-conscious in his cell with neck injuries, has outraged his alleged victims and put the federal Bureau of Prisons under intense scrutiny.
"We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives, while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed, the pain and trauma he caused so many people," Jennifer Araoz, one of Epstein’s dozens of accusers, told NBC News after his death. "Epstein is gone, but justice must still be served."
Epstein was reportedly placed on suicide watch after he was discovered in his cell in an apparent suicide attempt, but it was removed 11 days before his death. When the Metropolitan Correctional Center took him off suicide watch, the jail told the Department of Justice he’d receive routine monitoring and a cellmate, according to the New York Times.
But the jail failed to conduct routine, 30-minute checks on his cell the night before his death, and he was in his cell alone, according to the Times. He was found hanging in his cell Saturday morning, and was in cardiac arrest when he was transferred to a nearby hospital.
Additionally, the few guards patrolling Epstein’s unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center were exhausted and working extreme overtime shifts, the Associated Press reported Sunday. That report and the Times’ report were based on anonymous sources from the jail where Epstein has been held since he was arrested in July.
The Justice Department’s inspector general will now investigate the circumstances of Epstein’s death in federal custody. “Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Attorney General William Barr said Saturday.
New York City’s chief medical examiner has conducted an autopsy but has not yet released an official determination, despite being confident the cause of death is suicide by hanging, according to the Times. (Epstein’s death unleashed several conspiracy theories, including some retweeted by President Donald Trump that suggested the Clinton family was involved, without offering evidence.)
“Detained pedophiles require special attention,” former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a tweet on Saturday. “Stopping people from harming themselves is difficult.”
Over the past several years, dozens of women have accused Epstein of repeatedly sexually abusing them while they were teenagers. Some of his alleged victims say were as young as 14 at the time of their assault. And some victims have alleged Epstein facilitated their continued abuse by his inner circle of powerful, wealthy men.
A flood of disturbing allegations continued to surface during Epstein’s short tenure in jail. He was indicted on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy last month for allegations that he trafficked and abused underage girls. He pleaded not guilty.
Then came the allegations that he kept nude photos of underage girls in his Manhattan estate, where he allegedly abused his victims under the guise of paying them for “massages.” Prosecutors said Epstein ran a sex trafficking ring between New York and Palm Beach between 2002 and 2005. On Friday, hundreds of court documents relating to his alleged sex trafficking ring and abuse were released.
The last time Epstein was in jail, he was granted generous work leave that allowed him to leave his cell for six days a week. He allegedly abused another woman during that time. That was after he took a cushy plea deal in 2008 that allowed him to plead guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida, despite facing similar sex trafficking allegations that could’ve warranted steep federal charges.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741, or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org for more information.
Cover: This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Jeffrey Epstein. (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP)