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Sheriff's office says death of 54-year-old Bryan Dearden was 'apparent suicide'

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - The Columbia County Jail in St. Helens A man in custody in the Columbia County jail died June 10 in what the sheriff's office described as "an apparent suicide."

Columbia County Sheriff's Deputies located 54-year-old Bryan Dearden unresponsive in his cell on Thursday afternoon during a routine check of adults in custody, according to the sheriff's office.

A deputy entered the cell, notified emergency medical services and began life-saving measures, the sheriff's office said. Medics arrived at the jail approximately 4 minutes later and assisted with life-saving measures until Dearden was pronounced dead just after 4 p.m.

Dearden had been in the jail since June 2020, awaiting trial on charges including kidnapping, assault and attempted murder.

A trial was set for August of this year, according to court records, but Dearden's attorney had resigned from the case earlier this month, citing Dearden's "ever-changing view on the value and effectiveness of my representation."

In a March letter from the jail to a judge, Dearden pleaded for help with his mental health. "I don't even know where to start. I tried to commit suicide. I have been off my mental health meds since the beginning of 2020. … I am back on my meds and I am stabilized currently," Dearden wrote.

"I truly need your help in getting me the mental help I need," he wrote.

It isn't clear yet if Dearden received any assistance following that letter.

Sheriff Brian Pixley said he has asked the Oregon State Police to conduct the investigation into Dearden's death.

This is the only death reported this year in the jail, which currently houses 137 inmates.


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