Man is identified in suspected jail suicide |

Man is identified in suspected jail suicide

William Ferchland

Donovan Leroy Henslick was identified as the inmate who apparently hanged himself with a 7-inch metallic telephone cord after he was booked into El Dorado County Jail early Saturday.

Henslick, a 55-year-old from South Lake Tahoe, was brought into the jail at 3:49 a.m., placed into his cell at 4:18 a.m. and found deceased at 5:14 a.m., said sheriff’s Lt. Randy Peshon.

Henslick was checked at 4:30 a.m. and during other instances by “officers walking by, that sort of thing,” Peshon said.

Jail staff found Henslick dead in a holding cell where new inmates can use the phone to call a bail bondsman or an attorney.

Peshon, who heads the jail, said the phone’s cord, like those on pay phones, was shortened to 7 inches from a foot about two years ago to prevent such occurrences.

“It’s the shortest we can make them and have the phone still be (usable),” he said.

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Shortly after Peshon was assigned jail commander more than two years ago, a suicide prevention team toured the jail seeking ways to prevent suicides. The phone’s cord was shortened a couple months later.

Another suicide prevention team was being developed before Saturday’s death, Peshon said.

Henslick was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving on James Avenue, obstructing an officer and driving on a suspended license, Peshon said. An additional charge of bringing drugs into the jail was added when marijuana was found in Henslick’s possession, Peshon said.

Henslick was listed at 5-foot-10-inches tall and 180 pounds, Peshon said. He was reportedly able to hang himself by keeping the phone’s receiver in its cradle.

No other inmates were in the holding cell.

The “Fatal Incident Protocol” has been instituted where the jail staff will do an internal investigation and bringing other agencies such as the South Lake Tahoe Police Department and California Highway Patrol to do a multiagency investigation.

Sheriff Jeff Neves was notified of Henslick’s death. Although the report is pending, he said, the initial assessment was jail staff followed “all the proper procedures and protocols.”

Neves couldn’t remember the last successful suicide attempt on the West Slope jail, but the last one to occur at the South Lake Tahoe facility was in April 2002 when James Csuscai hanged himself with a bedsheet. Csuscai was accused of murdering his girlfriend’s 9-year-old daughter during a standoff with authorities at Campground by the Lake in September 2001.

But there have been suicide attempts even though the jails take away shoelaces and belts. One man jumped from the second tier to the ground level at the Placerville jail, while attempts have been made at South Lake Tahoe.

“The sheriff’s department tries very, very hard every day to prevent suicides within the jail and in the last two years we have prevented or stopped 10 attempts at suicides by inmates,” Peshon said.

– E-mail William Ferchland at