An autopsy of Jeffrey Epstein’s body discovered multiple fractures in his neck, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday, offering the first findings on the US financier’s death in prison by apparent suicide.
These breaks are more common in strangulation cases but could also be present in suicides-by-hanging among the middle-aged, experts told the US paper, as the mysterious death of the convicted sex offender and friend to the rich and famous continued to fuel conspiracy theories.
The manner in which Epstein killed himself has not been announced publicly by government officials. An autopsy was performed Sunday, but New York City Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said investigators were awaiting further information. A private pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, observed the autopsy at the request of Epstein’s lawyers.
A person familiar with operations at the jail said Epstein, 66, was found with a bedsheet around his neck Saturday morning. That person also wasn’t authorized to disclose information about the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
According to The Washington Post, Epstein’s hyoid bone, near the Adam’s apple, was among the bones shattered.
“If, hypothetically, the hyoid bone is broken, that would generally raise questions about strangulation, but it is not definitive and does not exclude suicidal hanging,” said Jonathan L. Arden, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, who was not involved in the autopsy.
The hyoid bone hardens in middle age, making it more likely to be fractured in suicides among that age group, according to Arden.
Studies cited by The Washington Post suggested between six percent and one-quarter of hanging suicides could see the hyoid break.
In the days since Epstein’s death while awaiting charges that he sexually abused underage girls, a portrait has begun to emerge of Manhattan’s federal detention center as a chronically understaffed facility that possibly made a series of missteps in handling its most high-profile inmate.
Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after he was found in his cell some three weeks ago with bruises on his neck. But he had been taken off that watch at the end of July and returned to the jail’s special housing unit.
There, Epstein was supposed to have been checked on by a guard about every 30 minutes. But investigators have learned those checks weren’t done for several hours before Epstein was found unresponsive, according to a person familiar with the episode. That person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and also spoke on condition of anonymity.
US Attorney General Bill Barr has instructed the Justice Department’s inspector general to probe Epstein’s death, saying it “raises serious questions that must be answered.”
The FBI is also investigating.
Epstein had been charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors. Prosecutors said Epstein sexually exploited dozens of underage teens, some as young as 14, at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005.
The young women were paid hundreds of dollars in cash to massage him, perform sexual acts and to recruit other girls, prosecutors alleged.
Epstein denied the charges and faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
Epstein had ties to prominent people around the globe, including US President Donald Trump, who partied with him in the 2000s, and former president Bill Clinton.