[UPDATED with Lawsuit:] William Robert Wedgeworth Hangs Himself in Newport Beach Jail

UPDATE, AUG. 9, 7:20 A.M.: Last year I brought you the sad story of William Robert Wedgeworth, a 43-year-old Newport Beach man who hanged himself in the city jail.

My colleague Nick Schou included the incident in the greater context of OC jail suicides and strange deaths in his Jan. 20 cover story, "Who'll Stop the Pain?"

Now, Wedgeworth's family is suing the city of Newport Beach and members of its police department.

The lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court alleges that police had visited the Wedgeworth home on other occasions when he suffered manic episodes and transported him to a hospital for 72-hour holds instead of a jail cell.

However, the complaint continues, on July 31, 2010, Wedgeworth was arrested on suspicion of spousal abuse and taken to the city jail. He killed himself hours later.

"The NBPD denied Mr. Wedgeworth such medical evaluation and treatment with devastating consequences to Mr. Wedgeworth and his family," contends the suit. The family has filed others against the city and department seeking up to $34 million in damages.

The city has apologized for the suffering the Wedgeworth family suffered, but claim its officers checked on the man and had no reason to believe he would kill himself. The Orange County District Attorney's office previously cleared the police department and its officers of wrongdoing.

Still, the Newport Beach City Council is expected to discuss the latest litigation in closed session tonight.

ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 3, 2010, 1:30 P.M.: We recently told you about the in-custody death of an Orange County Jail inmate.

Now, another man has died in a different OC jail.

Around 10 p.m. Saturday, a custodial officer doing a routine check of the Newport Beach Jail found 43-year-old William Robert Wedgeworth dangling from the ceiling. He'd apparently hanged himself.

The disovery of Wedgeworth's body came less than seven hours after he was arrested on suspicion of spousal battery, according to police, who added that paramedics called to the jail were unable to resuscitate the inmate.

This marks the second time in less than two weeks that the Orange County District Attorney's Office has been called in to investigate an in-custody death, as is routine in such cases.

On July 22, Gregorio Torres, also 43, died of natural causes after being taken from his Orange County Jail cell in Santa Ana to a local hospital, the Orange County Sheriff's Department previously revealed. Torres had been hospitalized since July 4 due to preexisting medical conditions.

Meanwhile, Wedgeworth's is the second apparent sucide by hanging at the Newport Beach Jail in 26 months. Michael Purnell, 50, reportedly hanged himself there in May 2008.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >