Monday, October 21, 2002

Sex sting arrestee hangs self in jail cell


Man had come from Lexington

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Lexington, Ky. man awaiting arraignment at the Hamilton County Justice Center killed himself early Sunday several hours after his Saturday arrest in a police sex sting.

Frank D. Hall, 44, apparently hanged himself in his single cell sometime between 2:26 a.m., when an officer on routine rounds observed him, and 3:06 a.m. when he was checked again, according to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Steve Barnett, sheriff's spokesman, declined Sunday to say what Mr. Hall hanged himself with, or to elaborate on the death, pending the outcome of an internal investigation and a separate probe by sheriff's detectives.

Mr. Hall was not on suicide watch, Mr. Barnett said, because he gave no indications he needed to be during mental health and medical screenings.

No jail policies appear to have been violated and jail logs show an officer checked on Mr. Hall about every 30 minutes, as required, he said.

"I haven't had any reports he was acting bizarre," Mr. Barnett said of Mr. Hall.

"We have very, very few incidents like this. Our job is to take care of the people and we do it very well, I think.

"Sometimes if someone is so determined, there's no way you're going to stop them."

The Hamilton County Coroner's Office will conduct an autopsy and determine cause of death.

Mr. Hall was arrested about noon Saturday in a parking lot at Montgomery Road and Interstate 71 in Kenwood.

He was charged with two counts of importuning and one count of attempted unlawful sexual contact with a minor, according to his arrest report.

Police say he arranged a noon meeting with someone he believed to be a 14-year-old girl - actually an undercover Cincinnati police officer.

Detectives with the Regional Electronic and Computer Investigation Task Force said that during the past month Mr. Hall had repeated conversations in an Internet chat room with the officer, who was posing as a girl.

They say he discussed specific sex acts and arranged the meeting to consummate their relationship with sexual intercourse and oral sex.

Mr. Hall also brought a video camera with him to record the acts, according to police records.

Mr. Hall lived in the 2100 block of Santa Anita Drive in Lexington, his arrest report shows.

One of his neighbors said he lived in a townhouse near Interstate 75.

He was a maintenance worker at the Toyota plant in Georgetown, according to his arrest report, but plant officials could not be reached Sunday.

A relative did not return calls for comment Sunday.

A criminal history check on Mr. Hall Sunday did not turn up any previous offenses, according to Ohio and Kentucky state and court records and the Lexington Police Department.

The suicide is the jail's first since May 2001, when Robert Brunswick, 37, of Price Hill, who was awaiting sentencing after being convicted a day earlier of two counts of rape, slit his throat in his cell.

While Mr. Barnett could not cite specific local statistics Sunday, he did say suicides at the Hamilton County jail have been rare.

Statewide last year, jail suicides increased from 11 to 14, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's 2001 Annual Jail Report.

Suicide once killed the most jail inmates nationally. But the suicide rate has plummeted from 129 per 100,000 in 1983 to 54 per 100,000 in 1999, falling behind natural deaths, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Part of the drop is attributed to a greater emphasis on suicide prevention, including more frequent cell checks and close monitoring by enough personnel trained in suicide prevention, according to the American Jail Association.

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.



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