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Officials: Deschutes Co. Jail inmate did not appear suicidal


A Portland martial arts studio owner and sex abuse suspect who died in an apparent suicide early Sunday at the Deschutes County Jail had been given a mental health evaluation, but did not appear to be suicidal, officials said Monday.

Deschutes County Sheriff Larry Blanton and District Attorney John Hummel spoke at a news conference called to provide more details on the death by hanging of Eben Kaneshiro, 35, nearly a week after his arrest on sex abuse charges, accused of molesting a young boy in the Sisters area.

“Deputies found Mr. Kaneshiro with a sheet tied around his neck and tied around the bottom bunk area.” Blanton said. “He was slumped on the floor.”

An autopsy conducted Monday afternoon at the State Medical Examiner’s Office “support investigators’ preliminary determination that Mr. Kaneshiro died from asphyxiation caused by suicide,” the DA’s office said in a statement.

It went on to say Hummel “will make the final determination as to the cause of death after the Central Oregon Major Crimes Team completes their investigation.”

The investigation of Kaneshiro’s death is being led by the Redmond Police Department, Hummel said.

Officials said Monday the sheriff’s and DA’s office agreed an outside investigation was in the interest of the agencies and public.

Hummel and Blanton were joined by sheriff’s Capt. Shane Nelson, who oversees the jail and is slated to become sheriff in July, and Capt. Scott Beard, a detective with the agency.

Blanton said Kaneshiro, who was checked on at least once an hour under jail policy, used a jail bed sheet to apparently hang himself. His body was found about 3 a.m. Not all inmates have sheets, but Kaneshiro was given one, Blanton said, noting that there had been no indications he was suicidal.

Blanton said jail security video that deputies monitor does not show activity going on inside cells.

Beard said Kaneshiro had left notes outing possible evidence involving other victims. That evidence is now with Portland Police.

“They’ll be writing search warrants and forensically going through that to identify possible other victims, but at this time we don’t have any numbers or names,” Beard said.

Portland Police spokesman Pete Simpson told NewsChannel 21 Monday that no other victims have come forward, and the department has closed the case. He said if more victims do come forward, they will be directed to the county’s victim’s assistance programs.

Portland police had expressed concern there might be other victims and had asked the public for any information to share.

While suicides at the jail are relatively infrequent, inmate attempts to take their own lives are not — Blanton noted that 11 inmates attempted suicide last year alone.

While the latest case is under review, the sheriff said the agency is not changing any of its policies, as of now.

NewsChannel 21’s Kandra Kent will have more from Monday’s news conference at 5 and 6 on NBC.

Here’s DA John Hummel’s statement in full:

Yesterday morning at 4:00 AM Chief Deputy District Attorney Mary Anderson and I went to the jail where we met with investigators. We also viewed the cell where Mr. Kaneshiro died and we viewed his body which was still in the cell.

A joint decision was made by me and Sheriff Blanton to initiate a Central Oregon Major Crimes Team investigation. Heading the investigation is Redmond Sgt. Jesse Petersen.

This afternoon at 1:00, the Oregon State Police Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy on Mr. Kaneshiro. Preliminary results of the autopsy support my initial conclusion that Mr. Kaneshiro’s cause of death was asphyxiation caused by hanging; however, the investigation is still on-going.

This morning I spoke with Sgt. Petersen and I told him to continue with his investigation and to leave no stone unturned. I have full confidence in Sgt. Petersen and the team he is leading. When their investigation is complete I will review their findings and make a final determination as to the cause of death.

Corrections deputies, and the crew from Bend Fire and EMS, made heroic efforts to save Mr. Kaneshiro’s life.

I saw on the video tape, a rapid and focused response from the on-duty team, and a look on their faces that revealed the pain they were experiencing. No deputy goes into the corrections profession because they want to preside over an inmate’s death. They enter the profession out of a desire to help those who are at the lowest point in their lives.

We did not conduct a press conference today to discuss the hundreds of times jail deputies have taken small actions to significantly improve the quality of life of the inmates they supervise. I can assure you, if I called a press conference every time this happened, we would be holding daily press conferences. Thank you to them for their valued service to our community.

My thoughts go out to the Kaneshiro family, who first struggled with the fact their loved one committed a heinous act, and now struggle with his loss of life.

And, paramount in all of the recent developments in this case, my support and admiration for the young boy who came forward to report the abuse he experienced remains immense. He’s a hero.

On Sunday, Beard said deputies found Kaneshiro unresponsive in his cell shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday. Deputies began life-saving efforts until Bend Fire Department medics arrived and took over, Beard said.

District Attorney John Hummel told NewsChannel 21 he reviewed jail video from the early Sunday period with Deputy DA Mary Anderson.

Kaneshiro was arrested on Sunday, April 18 and booked into the jail, held on $500,000 bail and facing three counts each of first-degree sex abuse and first-degree sodomy involving a boy under the age of 12.

He was arraigned on the initial charges last Monday and was due back in court Monday afternoon on the formal charges from a grand jury indictment.

Kaneshiro owned the New Breed Jiu-Jitsu Academy in southeast Portland. Portland police detectives had said they were concerned there could be more victims and had asked anyone with information to contact Detective Darrell Miller at 503-823-0842.

It’s the second inmate death at the Bend jail in 4 1/2 months. At Hummel’s request, the state Department of Justice is reviewing the circumstances surrounding the Dec. 14 death of inmate Edwin Mays, 31, of a methamphetamine overdose, and whether policies were followed in terms of medical treatment.

In February 2010, inmate Joel Haskin died at St. Charles Bend, four days after he was found hanging in his cell. Then-DA Mike Dugan said he died of coronary arrest. Another inmate was critically injured in a Feb. 2012 suicide attempt.

In the online “social visiting rules” for the jail, the agency states, “While visiting, if an inmate says or implies anything about committing suicide or doing other self harm or harm to others, or of being a victim of physical or sexual assault or knowing of another inmate who is, please contact jail staff immediately.”

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