Wife sues prison over suicide of husband accused of trying to hire a hit man to kill her

Linda Macauley claims county officials violated her husband’s civil rights by not preventing him from dying by suicide

Matt Miller

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Two years ago, James Macaulay hanged himself in the Dauphin County Prison, where he was being held on charges that he had tried to hire someone to kill his wife.

Now, that same wife is suing the county in federal court, claiming county officials violated her husband’s civil rights by not preventing him from committing suicide.

Dauphin County Prison. (Photo/Sean Sauro via Tribune News Service)
Dauphin County Prison. (Photo/Sean Sauro via Tribune News Service)

Linda Macauley is seeking more than $150,000 in damages in her complaint filed in U.S. Middle District Court in Harrisburg.

She contends that prison staffers were “deliberately indifferent” to the fate of her 45-year-old husband and didn’t sufficiently monitor him as he sat in a cell in lieu of $2 million bail in March 2019 facing a solicitation to commit murder charge. They should have realized he posed a “serious risk” of suicide, she claims.

County officials said James Macaulay, a Landisville resident, was found unresponsive in his cell 12 days after his arrest. Linda Macauley claims he had been uttering repeated threats that he was going to kill himself. He also had been assessed as a suicide risk when he was admitted to the prison and staffers were under orders to monitor him every 15 minutes, her suit states.

She contends that when he hanged himself with a sheet early on the morning of March 21, her husband had not been monitored for a 29-minute stretch. Linda Macaulay claims prison records were altered to try to hide that alleged lapse in monitoring.

County detectives said James Macaulay was arrested four days after contacting an acquaintance and asking that person if he knew any contract killers. That acquaintance, who apparently informed police, gave Macaulay a phone number, the investigators said. They said Macaulay called that number and sought to strike a deal to have his wife killed for $5,000.

James Macaulay gave the “purported killer” a photo off his wife and a list of places she was likely to be found, the detectives said.

Macaulay was found dead hours before he was scheduled to have his preliminary hearing in his criminal case.

(c)2021 The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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