NEW YORK — Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who was long dogged by accusations of sexual abuse of girls and who was able to cultivate a stream of high-profile friends despite his lurid lifestyle, killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell, officials said Saturday.
Epstein hanged himself, the officials said. He was found at roughly 6:30 a.m. Saturday at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the federal Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.
Last month, a week after being denied bail on federal sex trafficking charges, Epstein was found unconscious in his cell at the jail with marks on his neck. Prison officials had been investigating that incident as a possible suicide attempt.
Epstein had been on suicide watch after he was found injured on July 23 and received a daily psychiatric evaluation, according to a person familiar with his detention. He was removed from suicide watch on July 29 and returned to the special housing unit, a segregated area of the prison with extra security, this person said.
The authorities did not immediately explain why he was taken off suicide watch. The FBI said it was investigating, and Attorney General William Barr said in a statement that a special inquiry would be opened into what had happened.
“I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody,” Barr said. “Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered. In addition to the FBI’s investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death.”
Manhattan federal prosecutors last month charged Epstein, 66, with sex trafficking of girls as young as 14. The indictment renewed attention toward how Epstein — who had opulent homes, a private jet and access to elite circles — had escaped severe punishment in an earlier investigation into his abuse of girls more than a decade ago in Florida.