Hernando inmate dies from injuries received in suicide attempt

BROOKSVILLE — As deputies closed in on him east of Brooksville one day in 2009, Charles Michael DeHart tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head with a handgun.

DeHart, who was wanted for failing to appear for a driving-under-the-influence trial and for allegations he'd robbed a convenience store, didn't succeed. He did cause severe brain damage, enough to cause near complete blindness and for a neurologist to determine he wasn't mentally competent to stand trial.

On Wednesday, DeHart tried again to kill himself, this time hanging himself with a bedsheet in the Hernando County Detention Center. He was taken to a hospital, where he died Monday morning, a Sheriff's Office report stated. An administrative review is under way, the report stated.

Despite his history, DeHart, 47, was not on suicide watch because he'd spent time in a state hospital and had been sent to Hernando County in July fit to face charges, officials said Monday.

DeHart's story is tragic, said Dave Bauer, his public defender. "I think this is a case where the resources available to us just weren't adequate to deal with the guy," he said.

As DeHart recovered at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa and was deemed mentally incompetent, prosecutors struck a deal, Bauer recalled: If DeHart was still not fit for trial after five years of annual evaluations, the DUI charge would be dropped and he would not be charged with armed robbery and fleeing to elude law enforcement.

DeHart was supposed to go to an assisted living facility, but he didn't have money or insurance, Bauer said. He wound up at his mother's house in Brooksville, where he was later arrested on charges of battery.

DeHart was once again deemed mentally incompetent and sent to a state mental health facility. He was released and returned to Hernando County, Assistant State Attorney Don Barbee said. That meant he was competent to stand trial, and the incident with his mother showed he was still dangerous, Barbee said.

The Public Defender's Office asked for another evaluation, convinced DeHart would once again be deemed incompetent. Officials also had found a lockdown assisted living facility in Tampa that would take him, Bauer said.

Five days before he hung himself, DeHart appeared in a Brooksville courtroom. The mental health evaluation was still pending, and another pretrial hearing was set for May 13.

News researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

Hernando inmate dies from injuries received in suicide attempt 04/25/11 [Last modified: Monday, April 25, 2011 11:17pm]

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