Barbara Sampson, the chief medical examiner of New York City, announced Sunday evening that she had completed an autopsy of Jeffrey Epstein. She declined, however, to announce any conclusions, saying in a statement that her “determination is pending further information at this time.”
The results of Epstein’s autopsy are highly anticipated in the aftermath of his apparent suicide early Saturday, which has launched many conspiracy theories and resulted in calls for investigation into the Manhattan prison where he was held.
According to the New York Times, though, Sampson “is confident the cause of death is suicide by hanging.” She’s being cautious before releasing her determination and “wants more information from law enforcement.” NBC News also reports that “suicide remains the presumed cause of death and that no sign of foul play has emerged.”
According to two people familiar with the autopsy findings that spoke to the Washington Post, Epstein sustained multiple breaks in his neck bones. Per the Post: “Among the bones broken in Epstein’s neck was the hyoid bone, which in men is near the Adam’s apple. Such breaks can occur in those who hang themselves, particularly if they are older, according to forensics experts and studies on the subject. But they are more common in victims of homicide by strangulation, the experts said.”
Jonathan L. Arden, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, told the paper that a broken hyoid requires pathologists to conduct further investigation of the shape and location of the noose that was used. “If, hypothetically, the hyoid bone is broken, that would generally raise questions about strangulation, but it is not definitive and does not exclude suicidal hanging,” Arden said.
On Friday, CNN Business published a piece criticizing the Post for framing the piece in a way that provided fodder for conspiracy theories. After speaking with several medical experts, CNN concluded that the evidence “in its totality was more consistent with suicidal hanging than strangulation.”
Sources told the Post that Sampson’s office wants additional information on Epstein’s condition in the hours before his death, which may include surveillance video from jail hallways, results of a toxicology screening, and interviews with guards and inmates who were near his cell.
Epstein was not on suicide watch at the time of his apparent hanging, though he had previously spent nearly a week under strict supervision. That came after he was found unconscious with marks on his neck on July 23. On July 29, he was taken off suicide watch at the request of his lawyers, The Wall Street Journal reports.
In the weeks between his being removed from suicide watch and his death, Epstein was not properly monitored. The Times reported Sunday that Epstein was housed alone, against standard practice, and was not checked on every 30 minutes, also against protocol. The two guards on his unit reportedly fell asleep, then falsified records to cover their mistake. They have been placed on leave and the warden at the Metropolitan Correctional Center has been temporarily reassigned.
Attorney General William Barr appeared to be referring to these issues on Monday when he told reporters, “We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation.”
Among the little information Sampson shared about Epstein’s autopsy Sunday is that Michael Baden, a former New York City medical examiner, was allowed to observe her autopsy at the request of Epstein’s representatives. Baden, who once hosted the HBO show Autopsy, has conducted private autopsies after high-profile deaths like those of Michael Brown and former NFL tight end Aaron Hernandez.
The results of the autopsy could trigger new legal action in the Epstein case, according to The Daily Beast, which reports that if his death is formally ruled a suicide, his estate “could press a claim for wrongful death while he was in the custody of the state.”