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Watertown man commits suicide in Albany jail

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Letters found in a Watertown man’s cell after he committed suicide in the Albany County jail over the weekend indicate he was depressed, according to the Albany County Sheriff’s Department.

Corrections officers found Demearle R. Gulledge, 36, at 6:50 a.m. Saturday hanging by a bedsheet from the bars on the door of his cell.

On Monday, Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple Sr. said letters from family members found near him indicated “he was upset.”

“We are still investigating to see if our policies and procedures were followed,” Sheriff Apple said.

An investigation by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision will take a few months to complete.

Mr. Gulledge was being boarded in the Albany County jail because of overcrowding in the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building.

Jefferson County Sheriff John P. Burns said he was awaiting reports from Albany County, but he didn’t think the overcrowding played a role in Mr. Gulledge’s suicide, which he described as an “unfortunate incident.”

“It wouldn’t matter whether he was here or there or in any other jail in any other county,” Mr. Burns said.

Sheriff Burns and the county Board of Legislators have clashed over the crowding issue in recent years, with the sheriff asking for the jail to be expanded and the legislators balking at the construction cost.

On Friday night, Mr. Gulledge was moved into a 6-by-9-foot single cell at his request, Sheriff Apple said. The inmate had told corrections officers he was going to “kill somebody if he had not been put in his own cell,” instead of sharing one with other inmates, according to the sheriff.

Typically, when inmates say that, it’s their way of getting their own cell because they “want privacy,” Sheriff Apple said.

He said Mr. Gulledge had shown no signs of suicidal thoughts beforehand. The sheriff declined to speculate whether Mr. Gulledge wanted his own cell so he could commit suicide.

Before the move, Mr. Gulledge lived in a dormitory setting, sharing a larger cell with four other inmates, but he was moved after the jail’s population in that wing was getting low, Sheriff Apple said.

On Saturday morning, a corrections officer discovered Mr. Gulledge unconscious in his cell just 26 minutes after he had last been seen during a round of routine checks of that part of the jail, Sheriff Apple said.

Officers and jail medical staff cut the sheet loose and performed CPR, but Mr. Gulledge was pronounced dead at 7:09 a.m., Sheriff Apple said.

On April 12, Mr. Gulledge pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and fourth-degree criminal mischief as a result of separate incidents. He had admitted he struggled with four corrections officers as he was leaving his cell June 13. Police said at the time that he was angry at officers for removing an ornamental shell from his dreadlocks after he had ignored officers’ orders to do so himself.

All four officers suffered injuries and were treated at Samaritan Medical Center. Mr. Gulledge faced two years in prison for the incident; he was due to be sentenced June 3.

Before going to Albany County in early May, Mr. Gulledge was in the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building after being charged with third-degree criminal mischief for allegedly slashing two tires.

Times staff writers Daniel Flatley and Brian Kelly contributed to this report.

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