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New Stanton kidnapping suspect dies

About Rich Cholodofsky
State police are trying to locate Dennis Lee Backus Jr., 42, who violated a protection-from-abuse order, abducted a woman from her home and held her at gunpoint in New Stanton.

By Rich Cholodofsky

Published: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A Hempfield man who hanged himself in a jail cell has died.

Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha said 42-year-old Dennis Backus was taken off life support in a Greensburg hospital on Wednesday night at the request of his family.

Backus had been in Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital since Monday morning, when he was found by guards hanging in his cell at the county jail.

Bacha said Backus was admitted to the hospital with cerebral inactivity, meaning that he was likely brain dead after the suicide attempt at the jail.

“His injuries were consistent with a hanging,” Bacha said.

An autopsy was conducted on Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh by Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist.

District Attorney John Peck said detectives investigated Backus' death and found no indications of foul play.

Backus was jailed on Jan. 23, one week after he was accused of kidnapping and threatening a New Stanton woman.

Police contended Backus came to the woman's home and forced her at gunpoint into his car.

Police sought the public's help to determine Backus' whereabouts, and a tip led to a home in Scottdale.

Warden John Walton previously said there was no indication that Backus was suicidal. As a result, Backus was not placed on suicide watch.

Just hours before he was taken off life support, Backus was released from custody on a recognizance bond by Scottdale District Judge Charles Moore.

The request for a bond reduction was from jail officials as a means to reduce the facility's medical expenses related to Backus' hospitalization.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or



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