An Ogden man facing trial in the alleged rough sex-turned-slaying of his girlfriend was found dead in his Weber County jail cell.
Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Lowther said Thursday that Jeffery Dean White, 43, was found by jail staff "unresponsive in his cell" at 9:11 p.m. Wednesday. Jail medical staff responded but declared White dead a short time later.
Lowther said the cause of death appears to be hanging. He said White was housed in the maximum security cell alone. White was not under any kind of suicide watch, Lowther said.
That surprised White's Ogden defense attorney, James Retallick. "That's rather baffling," he told The Salt Lake Tribune, insisting that testimony offered during bail hearings clearly indicated that White was unstable.
"There were concerns about his mental stability and that he might hurt himself," Retallick said, adding that he wanted to know how his client got hold of the towel that he apparently used to hang himself. "I'm not sure where the disconnect in communicating [his mental state] may have been."
Initially, bail for White had been set at $1 million cash only. At his video arraignment, that was reduced to a $250,000 bond. "That still was pretty steep for his family," Retallick said, so White had remained behind bars.
However, Lowther disputed that jailers had reason to believe that White was suicidal.
"I have been in contact with the jail administration. Mr. White's conduct and behavior during booking did not indicate a risk of suicide," Lowther said. "I [have reviewed] other paper work [and] at this time can find no indication that the jail was notified of any concerns of suicide that were discussed during court proceedings outside of the jail.
"I also can find no indication at this time that Mr. Retallick contacted the jail with any concerns that Mr. White may harm himself," Lowther added.
However, he stressed that the matter would be investigated by the Weber County Attorney's Office. The State Medical Examiner's Office also was to conduct an autopsy.
White was charged on Nov. 9 in 2nd District Court with one count of first-degree felony murder in the Oct. 20 death of 38-year-old Marnie Stark. He also had been charged with two counts of third-degree domestic violence in the presence of a child.
White's two children, ages 7 and 9, were present in the home during an argument that night between White and Stark, in which he admitted they were arguing loudly and throwing things at each other, according to court documents.
White also told police that he and Stark had "rough sex," which included him choking her, shortly before he called 911 at about 10:15 p.m. Medical personnel responded, but Stark was pronounced dead at McKay-Dee Hospital Center a short time later.
An autopsy showed that Stark died from a lacerated liver caused by blunt force trauma. The medical examiner said the injury was consistent with punches or kicks.