Inmate's suicide draws concerns, sparks policy changes

A state investigation into the January suicide of a Mohave County Jail inmate concluded there was no criminal conduct but raised some questions about his medical care.

James Anthony Mymern committed suicide while being held without bond in the shooting of his estranged wife, Patsy Mymern, at a Kingman grocery store in July 2001.

On Jan.

26, Mymern strangled himself with gauze that wrapped his leg, which he shattered during a suicide attempt in October.

He died Jan.

30.

Mymern broke the leg when he jumped from the second tier of the jail and was moved to the medical wing.

Chief Deputy Mohave County Attorney Jace Zack reviewed the investigation by the Arizona Department of Corrections and found no evidence of criminal conduct.

The investigation report indicated the jail's medical personnel from Prison Health Systems Inc.

did not recognize Mymern's signs of suicidal potential and did not refer him to a mental health professional following his arrest.

"'I have concerns as to what they're involved with and the actions they took," Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan said.

"I have concerns with what was done, what should have been done and what wasn't done."

Sheahan said the county is negotiating a new contract with Prison Health Systems and one other firm.

He said one of the items under discussion is inmate suicide.

The day after Mymern's first suicide attempt Oct.

4, Mymern did see a Kingman psychologist, Dr.

Laurence Schiff, who stated that Mymern was not suicidal, the Department of Corrections report stated.

"He denied being depressed and despite the seriousness of his charges he denied that he is at all suicidal nor has he ever been at any time," the mental evaluation stated.

"There is no evidence of any psychotic thought process or content."

Schiff would not comment about Mymern's suicide except to say he saw Mymern Oct.

5 on just one occasion.

Schiff also said that since March 1 he has provided mental health services to inmates at the jail on a weekly basis.

Before that, no psychologists were available to inmates on a regular basis.

The jail's Prison Health Systems administrator ordered a suicide watch for Mymern after his suicide attempt, which began when he returned to the jail from Kingman Regional Medical Center on Oct.

8.

The suicide watch, a shift check every 12 hours, ended by late November, the report shows.

The state report also showed that when Mymern hanged himself, the crime scene was not secure, photographed or processed, nor was evidence collected in a timely manner even though there was no indication it was anything but a suicide.

Sheahan said a suicide is not technically considered a crime scene but that detention officers and staff at the jail will begin handling suicides as crime scenes similar to homicides.

Mymern had been charged with attempted first-degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault.

He stalked his wife following a month-long separation, according to investigators.

On July 17, 2001, Mymern confronted Patsy Mymern in the Smith's grocery store parking lot on Stockton Hill Road and shot her several times, police said.

Patsy Mymern suffered numerous gunshot wounds but survived the shooting.

Mymern also was charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated assault for attempting to hire his former cellmate to beat up his wife's boyfriend once the cellmate was released from custody.