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James McVay Found Dead In Prison Cell

September 4, 2014, 9:41 AM

James McVay Found Dead In Prison Cell
James McVay


A South Dakota death row inmate has taken his own life.

The state Department of Corrections says James McVay, 44, killed himself in his cell in the Jameson Annex overnight.  Penitentiary staff tried CPR but he was pronounced dead at the prison.

McVay admitted to killing Maybelle Schein of Sioux Falls in a cross country crime spree.  Earlier this year, McVay pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the July 2011 murder.  After her death, McVay stole her car and planned to drive to Washington, D.C., where he wanted to murder the president.

April 15, 2014: McVay Joins Growing List Of Death Row Inmates

May 13, 2014: Judge Makes McVay Death Sentence Official

An autopsy will be conducted. The Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the death. The Department of Corrections will conduct a full review of circumstances surrounding his death.

McVay was represented by the Minnehaha County Public Defender’s Office, which released the following statement on his death:

In 21st century America, where we have the best forms of treatment available to treat everything from cancer to heart disease – we still choose to believe that people can control whether to suffer from mental illness.  James had a long documented history of significant mental health issues.  Even after sentencing, he was still housed in the mental unit at the SD State Penitentiary, and was never housed on death row.  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. 

 -- Defense Team for James McVay

Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan also issued a statement regarding McVay's suicide:

“Mr. McVay was a deeply disturbed man.  He made it very clear to us that he had very little respect for human life, including his own.  Although we continue to mourn the loss of Ms. Maybelle Schein, we hope that Mr. McVay’s decision to take his own life, ends this horrible chapter in their lives and brings them closure.  Our thoughts and prayers also go out to the loved ones of Mr. McVay, as they’ve clearly had to endure many years of turmoil and consternation."

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