UPDATE: 3 DJJ employees suspended after teen in custody dies in apparent suicide

07/14/2014 2:34 PM

07/14/2014 8:10 PM

A 16-year-old in state custody at the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice apparently killed himself by hanging shortly before midnight Sunday.

Alan C. Cottrell, 16, of Pelzer, was found hanging from his bedsheet in his dorm room, Richland Coroner Gary Watts said.

The young man was alone in a room, Watts said, citing an incident report.

Cottrell was discovered about 11:30 p.m. Sunday and Watts said he didn’t know how long it had been since staff had checked on him. He was not “under any kind of special watch,” Watts added.

In a statement released Monday, Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Director of Public Affairs Loretta S. Neal said three DJJ employees have been placed on suspension while the matter is investigated.

“Any time a young person dies it is a tragedy, especially under circumstances like this,” Neal said. “DJJ extends its deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of the young man.”

The statement went on to say that the department has initiated “an immediate internal investigation of this incident and has also referred the matter to the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).”

The young man was being held on an adult charge of burglary in the first degree, the statement indicated.

The victim was taken from the Broad River Road facility by ambulance to Lexington Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 12:22 a.m.

An autopsy conducted Monday morning showed he died from asphyxiation by hanging.

The death remains under investigation by Watts’ office and the State Law Enforcement Division. Thom Berry, a SLED spokesman, said it would be inappropriate to comment while the investigation is still under way.

Dawn Hinshaw and Mindy Lucas

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