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Fayette County Prison inmate dies days after hanging

| Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, 1:15 p.m.

A man found hanging in an apparent suicide attempt in the Fayette County jail has died, authorities said on Sunday.

Derek Andrew Thomas, 25, of Uniontown was pronounced dead early Thursday at UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Oakland, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office.

An autopsy performed on Sunday by an associate medical examiner ruled Thomas's death a suicide by asphyxiation from hanging.

Warden Brian Miller said the jail is conducting an internal investigation, and Uniontown police have been asked to investigate as well.

Although Thomas was pronounced dead early Thursday, Miller said he remained hospitalized with family by his side upon Miller's departure from the hospital on Friday evening.

An obituary indicates that Thomas died Saturday morning at the hospital.

An official at the medical examiner's office declined to say when Thomas's body was released to them or the reason for the prolonged hospital stay. Miller was unaware that Thomas had died or was pronounced dead on Thursday when a reporter called him Sunday afternoon.

Family members could not be reached.

A corrections officer who was making rounds in the jail at 6 p.m. Dec. 22 discovered Thomas hanging from a bedsheet. Miller has said Thomas had a pulse when he was cut down, but it was unknown how long Thomas was hanging before being discovered.

He was taken to Uniontown Hospital and transferred to Presbyterian.

Thomas was incarcerated at the jail the day before on burglary, theft and receiving stolen property charges from an incident in South Union, according to court records. His $50,000 cash bail was altered on Dec. 23 at the warden's request to $50,000 unsecured because of the suicide attempt and Thomas's subsequent hospitalization, according to online court records.

The bail reduction allowed a jail guard to withdraw from Thomas's room and his family to be at his bedside.

Miller said previously that when Thomas arrived at the jail, he gave no indication during the intake process that he might be suicidal.

Court records indicate Thomas had three prior criminal cases since 2008 for offenses that include driving under the influence and marijuana and drug possession. In 2010, he was sentenced to up to two years in prison in a case involving drug and weapons charges.

A viewing is scheduled for 3 to 7 p.m. Monday at Kezmarsky Funeral Home in Uniontown. Funeral services will begin at 7 p.m.

Staff writer Liz Zemba contributed. Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reachedat 724-837-5374 orrsignorini@tribweb.com.

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