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Lee Co. inmate’s suicide raises mental health concerns in jails

FORT MYERS, Fla.- A 72-year-old inmate jumped to his death inside the Lee County Jail, a day before he was scheduled to be sentenced for killing his ex-wife and her fiancé.

Michael Stephen Spiegel was convicted in August for the 2014 deaths of 70-year-old Marilyn Spiegel and 72-year-old Harry Carlip. He was scheduled to appear in court in Fort Myers on Monday afternoon.

Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott says Spiegel jumped headfirst off the second floor.

“We’re talking about one extremely isolated incident, out of thousands of inmates,” said Scott.

Robert Harris defended Spiegel in trial using the insanity defense, but medical experts and jurors disagreed.

“That doesn’t mean he didn’t have mental illness,” said Harris.

The attorney says the signs of mental illness were clear, although he never thought Spiegel was suicidal.

“So I don’t know if the jail had any advance warning,” said Harris.

Sheriff Scott says Spiegel was not on suicide watch, and a mental evaluation first completed when he first entered the jail did not call for extra supervision.

“While it’s regrettable, I’m not aware of anything that could have been done to prevent it,” said Scott.

While Harris says there needs to be a bigger discussion on mental health care in the jail system, Scott did not believe mental health care was the issue.

“These jails have become the biggest mental health facilities in the country,” said Harris.

“To suggest this incident warrants re-inventing the wheel, is shallow thinking. I see nothing here that would support that,” said Scott.

There were about 30-60 other inmates and one deputy in the area when Spiegel ended his life, as inmates were free to walk around.

There have been six deaths inside the Lee County Jail since 2013, two of which were suicides. The other deaths were determined to be related to medical issues or natural causes.

 

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