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Investigators are looking into the death of an inmate at the New Hanover County jail. The body of Andrew Michael Helms was found in his cell at approximately 5:30 this morning. The 20-year-old Charlotte native had been in jail since February 8, 2008. He was awaiting trial on charges of robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and larceny. Authorities say it's standard procedure for the SBI to launch an investigation when a death occurs inside a jail. Authorities would not confirm the cause of death and said more information will be made available as the investigation continues.

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  • hopeless

    Andrew stayed with me, just 4 months before he died, He was homeless. I imagine that he felt really lost in the world. He needed help, I tried to help as much as I could. I bought him some food, and gave him a warm place to sleep for two nights. This was the last time that I saw him. When he committed those crimes, I believe it was because he was desperate. I just wish he would have gotten some professional help. It really is a shame, he was very smart and talented. I do not believe it was anyone’s fault, I only wish my friend was still alive.

  • hopeful

    Alright this isn’t a debate about whos at fault. Noone is. I was friends with Andrew and went to high school with him. He never seemed to be violent or suicidal. He had problems, drugs being one of them, but he treated everyone really respectfully. He graduated in 06 and I’ve only seen him a handful of times since. He was a good person that just made one bad decision after another and didn’t know how to get himself out. I don’t think fingers should be pointed. I think hands should be joined in prayer for him and his family. I hope that if you all believe in an after life that you will pray that when he killed himself he went to a god who comforted him and made his pain go away. It takes a lot of misery to push someone to the point of claiming their own life and I hope he finds his happiness in the after life. The side of him that I knew was good. He wasn’t vicious or cruel and his death deserves respect not debate. Just drop it guys and leave him to rest in peace and in your prayers. Thanks.

  • GuestinWhiteville

    He committed suicide with his bed sheets! Please get your facts before you jump to conclusions!

  • AB

    If an inmate really wants to kill himself/herself, they will succeed. If the housing unit officers were doing their rounds properly, it is not their fault. Many times, there are no indications that an inmate is suicidal. Let’s give the SBI a chance to do their investigation. In the meantime,give the officers a chance to be proven faultless(or at fault) and be thankful that there are people that are willing to work in your county jail. Would you do that job?

  • Guestater

    Would I do that job? Why not? Would you do my job? I work with developmentally challenged children, (some of these children are severely brain damaged) I have a masters degree making $27,000 per year. I am so tired of these “walk a mile in his shoes” kind of idiotic responses to serious issues. The fact is the jailer or whatever chose to do that job, no one forced him to do it, there are other jobs out there.

    This inmate proved himself to be of danger to himself or others because he was already in protective custody with a state mandated watch of 4 times per hour. I believe the cell is also under constant video survelience. So how does someone suffocate themselves to death (it takes at least 4 minutes) and not be seen?

    And as the earlier poster asked, if the kid was in so much danger why wasnt he in a hospital setting where professionals would be available to help him.

    This is no more different than a person with a cardiac emergency not receiving the proper care.

    Another lawsuit, another dead body, blood on the hands of the Sheriff.

  • Pilot 223

    Maybe the new $700k R44 helicopter could have prevented this…(While we are on this subject…..
    Why did the sheriff not look at the PROVEN series of Law Enforcement Helicpoters by BEll Helicopters such as the 206,407,427 or 430 series.. ( http://www.bellhelicopter.com/en/aircraft/commercial/missions/enforcement.cfm ) Oh wait.. why use products that are auctually made for the purpose of LE when you can scimp out with a cheap bill on a cheap helicopter known for both maintenance issues and crashes.. The R-44.. Wow.. what a great choice Sidney…)

  • Guest inmate

    How does this happen? if the guy is so helll bent on killing himself why wasnt he in the hospital? Shades of Gary Rummer.

  • Since you are so well educated why don’t you run for public office and solve all these problems we have?

  • RRoverusle

    For someone with a Master’s Degree, you could stand some class to go along with it. The person posting did not have an ‘idiotic response’, he was only encouraging others to allow for the SBI to do their investigation. You are so quick to name call, you didn’t get the message.
    THANK YOU for the job you do. You’re right, most of us could not or would not do it. Teachers and those who work with challenged and handicapped children are such a valuable asset to the community. Again, thank you for your service, but it isn’t necessary to name call.
    There is no video monitering inside of the cells, hence the need for rounds. Video monitering only covers the dayrooms of the housing units in the New Hanover County Jail. You would really be surprised at how quickly an inmate can bring harm to himself or others! 15 minutes is plenty of time (even if rounds are being performed every 15 minutes). Just so you know, detention officers can be sued personally. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.
    Glad to see your responses to this issue, everyone! Regardless of how you feel about the Sheriff, his helicopter, etc,! Ha! :)

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday

    For whatever reasons, this man CHOSE to end his own life.

    It was HIS decision, and no one in the entire world can be blamed for a course of action HE chose.

    We incarcerate prisoners because they pose a threat to society, not to simply provide free housing, chow, and snuggly warm care. Go to jail and there’s no one there to tuck you into bed and read you a bedtime story. In the case at hand, you have to wonder if this guy’s behavior, which led him to jail, may have influenced his decision to check-out.

    I invite all members of the sob-sister brigade to work at the jail for a week or two, and see the “quality” of your clientel. See how much you genuinely care about their personal problems and private lives after you’re around them for awhile. You WILL be cursed. You might get spit on (or worse). Please avoid getting jumped and having the snot beaten out of you – they prey on the weak, and can sense it in a deputy or CO.

    We need to get real about what we expect from jailers. They’re not Psychiatrists nor are they issued crystal balls.

  • Gene Vincent

    Did they call the ERT in for something?

  • fozbot98

    As usual, I see some people actually thinking and waiting on the outcome of the independant investigation before they just to conclusions and crucify someone and others automaticallly start laying blame. This is typical of society now. Always looking for something to complain about or someone to blame.

    If it takes 4 minutes to suffocate yourself and rounds are done every fifteen minutes, according to my first grade math, that’s 11 minutes that allows someone who dead set of suicide to it. If someone wants to kill themselves, you will find a body. Those who call 911 and tell the dispatcher, sorry, telecommunicator, they are going to kill themselves, want attention OR actually have a problem and WANT help. That’s just the way it it.

    There are no cameras in the cells for the same reason there are no cameras in or around the restrooms at any restaurant or shopping mall. Because we as US citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    This guy was in the jail because he was awaiting trial on 2 violent felonies. Where has anyone said he made suicidal threats prior to the day he died? The jail is not day care center and it’s not the place you will find fine upstanding, hardworking, honest pillars of the community. They are arrested for a crime.

    What the h*ll does this have to do with a helicopter? Absolutely nothing. Leave it alone.

    So basically, if some of you think for one minute that you can do Sid Causey’s job better than him, file a motion with the resident superior court judge for a hearing to have him removed or run for election. Then you will see what he really puts up with everyday.

  • Guest inmate

    This young man obviously had some issues that were not addressed properly. Yes GED level jailers are not qualified to diagnose a man with severe depression, but by the FACT that this young man was being held in a “watch cell” means he was deemed to be of danger to himself or others. So someone knew and someone would have had him see someone who is qualified to evaluate him properly and have him transfered to a hospital IF he was determined to be suicidal.

    Remember EVERYONE in a jail is awaiting trial, they have not been convicted of a crime. They are all innocent. (except for the handful serving out a 30 day or less sentence)

    The state has several rules for jails.


    “Emergency medical problem” is a serious medical need, including severe bleeding, unconsciousness, serious breathing difficulties, head injury, severe pain, suicidal behavior, or severe burns, that requires immediate medical attention and that cannot be deferred until the next scheduled sick call or clinic.

    From the Star News

    Chief Deputy Ed McMahon, of the sheriff’s office, said the inmate was in a special housing unit and that precautionary procedures were followed.”

    Ben David said authorities will review video of law enforcement monitoring of the inmate as well as the jailers’ rescue effort.

    10A NCAC 14J .1717 SUPERVISION
    (a) Officers shall make supervision rounds and directly observe each inmate in person at least twice per hour on an irregular basis. The supervision rounds shall be documented. If remote electronic monitoring is used to supplement supervision, it shall not be substituted for supervision rounds and direct visual observation.
    (b) Officers shall maintain voice or visual contact with all inmates at all times, and it shall be through either direct observation or by means of electronic surveillance.
    (c) Their shall be more frequent observation of inmates who are assaultive, suicidal, intoxicated, mentally ill or who have other special needs or problems.
    (d) Officers shall remain awake at all times.
    (e) Officers shall not be assigned other duties that would interfere with the continuous supervision, custody or control of inmates.
    (f) Female officers shall be on duty when female inmates are confined.
    (g) The police chief shall develop a contingency plan for the supervision and control of inmates during an emergency, and it shall provide for the ready availability of extra personnel.
    (h) Inmates shall not be allowed to supervise or assume any control over other inmates.

    (c) Officers shall directly observe, at least four times per hour, inmates who display the following behavior:
    (1) physically hitting or trying to hit an officer; or
    (2) being verbally abusive; or
    (3) stating he will do harm to himself; or
    (4) intoxicated, as determined by a score of .15 on a breathalyzer or displaying slurred speech or smelling of alcohol or inability to control body movement; or
    (5) displaying erratic behavior such as screaming, crying, laughing uncontrollably, or refusing to talk at all.

    In municipal lockups that have a central control station, the station shall:

    (3) have direct two‑way voice communication with all confinement units;

  • WilmMan

    And in that long list of things you didn’t show where any officer was negligent. How do you know the officers didn’t check on that subject once every 15 min? How do you know he didn’t have direct conversation with that inmate when he checked on him? Who’s to say an officer can’t check on an inmate at 10:01 and then again at 10:29, and again at 10:31 and finally at 10:59? That is checking the inmate 4 times an hour every 15 minutes, which by law is what they have to do. So technically, this inmate could of had 24 minutes to kill himslef. And as far as having direct contact with inmates 24hrs a day is ridiculous. Exactly how is an officer suppose to have direct contact with 64 inmates at one time? 64 inmates is how many beds are in a housing unit and that number is within the guidelines set forth by the State. FYI, there are intercoms in all the housing units and sleep areas so there is direct two-way communication available at all times

    Some of you that want to blame LEO for everything are a joke. It doesn’t matter what they do, they will always be wrong. The fact is, a boy wanted to kill himself and he succeeded. It’s nobody’s fault. At least it hasn’t been proven to be anybody’s fault yet. And until that happens, why not lay off blaming LEO.

  • Guest101

    I knew this kid and the reporters got their facts wrong since he is from fayetteville, nc


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