Inmate death ruled suicide

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 23, 2010

The Alabama Bureau of Investigation has declared Wednesday’s death of a Covington County inmate an “apparent suicide.”

Robert Gene Yingst, 40, of Florala, was found dead inside his jail cell Wednesday afternoon. Law enforcement officials have yet to confirm the cause of death; however, sources close to the investigation say it was by hanging.

Yingst was jailed Monday by the Florala Police Department following allegations he held his family against their will for more than 14 hours and threatened to kill his wife and then himself last Thursday. He was also facing additional charges of kidnapping and sexual abuse.

But despite Yingst’s previous declarations of self-harm, Sheriff Dennis Meeks said Thursday the inmate “never made any admissions whatsoever he was going to kill himself” to jail staff or other law enforcement personnel during his jail stay.

“(And because of that) he wasn’t placed on suicide watch,” Meeks said. “When an inmate is booked into jail, they go through a medical process where they are asked, ‘Are you having suicidal thoughts or tendencies? Do you intend to do yourself physical harm?’

“Additionally, the correction officers and arresting officer look at the inmate’s demeanor and how they are acting,” he said. “I know that on Monday and Tuesday correctional officers spoke with (Yingst) and that his probation officer did, too, Wednesday morning. He gave no indication that he was thinking of doing it.”

In a statement released from the ABI Thursday, Trooper Kevin Cook stated ABI is investigating the death at Meeks’ request, and once the investigation is complete, the findings will be submitted to the CCSO and to the district attorney’s office.

No additional information was released.