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September 04, 2014 05:43 PM

McVay Found Hanging From Prison-Cell Bunk

Sioux Falls, SD

An admitted murderer took his own life Thursday morning while sitting on South Dakota's death row.

James McVay, 44, was found hanging by a bed sheet from his jail-cell bunk shortly before 7 a.m. Thursday morning. McVay was sentenced to death in May for the 2011 murder of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein. James McVay pleaded guilty but mentally ill for Schein's murder.

McVay's crime was random and cold-blooded. He told police Lucifer led him to Schein's home in July of 2011 after he spotted her open garage door.

McVay says he slashed Schein's throat to get blood on his hands before going on a cross-country killing spree to assassinate the president.

Previous Coverage: McVay: 'I Killed Her Because I Wanted To Kill Her'

It's why Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan, who worked on McVay's case for nearly three years, says he isn't shocked by the news of the death-row inmate's suicide.

"Mr. McVay made it very clear to us during his interviews with law enforcement and others that he had very little respect for human life including his own," McGowan said.

The South Dakota Department of Corrections says an officer doing morning rounds found McVay hanging from his bunk Thursday.

"He did have bed sheets in his room and he did use a bed sheet tied around his bunk," South Dakota Penitentiary Warden Darin Young said.

Young says McVay was not on suicide watch despite a suicide attempt three years ago. During his sentencing hearing this spring, a Department of Corrections psychiatrist said shortly after Schein's murder in 2011 McVay tried to overdose on anti-psychotic medication. Young says recent evaluations of McVay showed no suicide risk, which is why he had bed sheets in his cell.

Previous Coverage: Psychiatrist: McVay Tried To Overdose In Prison

"Apparently by him not being on a watch and not showing those kinds of behaviors for several years he's worked his way to having some of those property items that he ultimately used against himself," Young said.

Young says the Division of Criminal Investigation is looking into McVay's death and Young will conduct a review of prison procedures in the wake of the suicide.

McGowan is remembering Schein's family with the sudden closure of the case.

"This was Mr. McVay's decision to take his own life by his own hands at the time he determined. Obviously Maybelle Schein didn't have that opportunity and died a horrible death," McGowan said.

McVay's defense team in the Minnehaha County Public Defender's Office declined an on-camera interview Thursday but released this statement:

"We are saddened by the loss of someone who was not just a client but our friend.  We hope that the tragic loss of James McVay and Maybelle Schein brings awareness to the epidemic of mental illness."

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