Local News

Inmate expressed no desire to commit suicide, sheriff says

— A man found deceased in the Highland County jail Monday morning had asked to be isolated from other prisoners, Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton said Tuesday.

Jesus G. Avitia, 25, of Sebring, was found with a bed sheet tightly wrapped around his neck after having been moved to his own cell, Benton said. She said Avitia never talked about suicide, but was concerned about other prisoners.

Detention deputies found Avitia unresponsive Monday at 8:30 a.m. in his cell. He was later pronounced dead at Highlands Regional Medical Center.

He’s was at least the third person to be found dead in the jail within the last two years. One of the other deaths was ruled a suicide.

While the circumstances appear to indicate that Avitia committed suicide, no such determination will be made until after the medical examiner issues a report, the sheriff said.

Avitia was arrested July 18 on a trespass charge after his ex-girlfriend reported that he was at her property and was intoxicated, officials said.

That arrest came less than a month after Avitia posted bond and was released on July 2 from custody by Immigrations Custom and Enforcement in Miami.

At the time of the death, “he was in an area of the jail used for intake,” the sheriff said.

Jail officials were determining where he would be housed on a long-term basis, she said. Immigrations officials were notified of the arrest, but had not yet indicated whether Avitia’s bond would be removed, the sheriff said.

Benton said that after being arrested, Avitia did not appear to be a threat to himself.

“He had not given a verbal indication he wanted to kill himself,” the sheriff said.

If Avitia had talked about suicide, he would have been placed in a much more secure area with constant monitoring, Benton said. He would not have been issued a bed sheet in that part of the jail, the sheriff said.

Jailers had talked with him 20 minutes before his death and he did not indicate he wanted to kill himself, the sheriff said. That visit came about after Avitia received medicine for a headache.

Avitia was being housed alone in a cell large enough to house two people as a result of asking to be isolated from other prisoners, the sheriff said.

Benton said its possible that the real reason Avitia asked for the cell change was so he could more easily commit suicide. But there’s been no determination that was the case, she said.

“I can’t really speculate what goes on in someone’s heart,” the sheriff said.

Besides having the immigration issue, Avitia’s arrest history involved most incidents stemming from alcohol use, she said.


(863) 386-5834