A New Hampshire man arrested and charged with trafficking more than 40 grams of heroin in Andover on Friday, Feb. 20 died in his jail cell three days later of an apparent suicide, police officials said.

Maurice Pratt, spokesman for the Essex County Sheriff's Department, said that correctional officers of the Middleton Jail were doing their rounds on Monday around 1:50 a.m. when they found Lee Walch, 41, of Manchester, New Hampshire hanging in his cell.

Walch was arrested on River Road the Friday before by Andover Police detectives, who were conducting surveillance in the area. When asked to get out of his GMC truck shortly after 8 p.m., detectives found heroin in Walch's pants and also inside his truck, along with $760 in cash, Andover Police Lt. Edward Guy said.

"Walch said the heroin was his,” Guy said.

At the time of his death, Walch was the only inmate in his cell. Officers cut down Walch and began CPR, called nursing staff and the jail's response team. They connected Walch to an automated external defibrillator, but Pratt said the device did not advise a shock.

"Our officers are trained on suicide prevention," Pratt said. "They are trained to look for signs the inmate is having difficulty, is distraught."

Such incidents have an impact on the jail's staff, which are charged with the care and custody of inmates, he said.

Walch was facing a minimum mandatory jail sentence of seven years if convicted, Guy said. 

One day later, another suspected suicide occurred at the Middleton Jail, its second in two days. 

Pratt said after incidents like this, there is a review of the staff’s actions, and “the officers and the shift command could not have responded any better.” 

He said the facility does not plan to change its protocol and procedures following the two suicides this week. He said the facility takes its charge of the care and custody of inmates seriously, and does its best to protect the safety of those in its care.

“We don’t buy into the theory sometimes things like this happen,” Pratt said. “We are going to try to prevent any way we can this from happening.”

Ethan Forman of the Salem News contributed to this report.


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