10 Most Bizarre Courthouse Suicides
Unfortunately, it is not that uncommon for tragedies to unfold in a courtroom, often where tensions are high and the dangerous linger. We’ve seen it throughout history with numerous judges being shot, lawyers being murdered, and people taking the law into their own hands.
However, when one inflicts the harm solely on themselves to end their own misery, it leaves those who bear witness not only haunted by the memory of what they’ve seen but forever questioning one’s despair and desperation. The following is a list of 10 people who refused to allow the legal system to play out, thus determining their own fate.
10 It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s . . .
In 2015, 22-year-old Tyquan Richardson of Atlanta, Georgia, was appearing at the Fulton County Superior Court Diversion Center at 10:00 AM for a pretrial interview. His case was about a previous drug charge in which Richardson was going to have to enter a drug intervention program.
When Richardson appeared at the courthouse, he had in his possession a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun. Richardson tried to conceal the pistol but to no avail. When it was discovered, Richardson was immediately placed in handcuffs and brought to a conference room on the third floor to await the consequences of a gun charge.
Understanding that he had made a major error in judgment and fearing jail time, Richardson panicked, stood up, and bolted past four officers toward the window. Throwing his body through the glass, he fell 12 meters (40 ft) and landed face-first on the concrete below. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
9 Going Down
In 2015, a 25-year-old man by the name of Erik B. Barnett was once again in front of a judge to answer for a recent failed drug test. The type of drugs in Barnett’s system for the failed test was not released to the public.
However, the judge at the Bell County Courthouse in Pineville, Kentucky, decided that due to Barnett’s violation, he would have to go back to jail. After the ruling, Barnett was led away by a bailiff, and in a clear breach of protocol, he was not handcuffed.
Barnett and the bailiff entered an elevator, and when the doors closed, fearing his future imprisonment, Barnett made his move. He struck the bailiff, knocking him down to the floor. He then proceeded to grab the bailiff’s gun and committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. The bailiff was not injured in the ordeal but, not surprisingly, was very shaken up and most likely was drenched in a lot of blood not his own.
8 Justice Served?
In 2013, 48-year-old Steve Parsons was found guilty by a jury of his peers in a Maryville, Missouri, courtroom on two felony counts of sodomizing a 14-year-old girl. Moments after the verdict was read, Parsons fell to the floor and began convulsing violently.
To say the least, those who knew Parsons personally, such as his family and friends, were shocked at the sight of him flapping around like a fish out of water. Parsons was sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison and selfishly thought that was too much time even though his young victim had received a life sentence.
After an autopsy was performed, it was concluded in the coroner’s report that Parsons had swallowed a cyanide pill following the guilty verdict. Parsons was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. It turns out that a week or so prior, Parsons had received an overnight delivery of cyanide. Apparently, he wasn’t too confident in his defense.
7 ‘Drop It! Drop It!’
On March 7, 2000, Anne Faville was found dead in her Virginia home of what appeared to be an accident by choking on a piece of chicken. Twelve years later, new light was shed on the case and her husband, Mark, was charged with murder. He had suffocated her because she was about to leave him for another man.
In 2015, 70-year-old Mark Faville was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter at the Montgomery County Courthouse. Following the verdict, Mark was led from the courtroom to an adjacent holding cell.
Moments later, shouts from deputies demanding “drop it, drop it” could be heard echoing through the courtroom. At first, few details were released to the public as to what had transpired behind the closed doors. But one thing was certain: Mark was dead.
It turns out that Mark had in his possession a “nonmetallic” item that he had used to slice himself, thus bleeding out and succumbing to his wound(s). Details about the item in question have not been released to the public out of concerns as to how that could impact future courthouse security.
6 Six Feet Off The Floor
On December 15, 2015, 48-year-old Kenneth Ray Thornhill of Texas was standing before a jury at the 75th District Court. The previous year, he had been busted for possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver.
On that December morning at 11:15 AM, Thornhill was found guilty on the felony drug charges and was facing some pretty serious jail time. The judge called for a lunch recess, and upon returning to court, Thornhill would be sentenced accordingly.
The jury was excused for the hour, and Thornhill was to be brought to his holding cell, which was located immediately adjacent to the courtroom. The officers followed protocol by removing Thornhill’s belt and personal property, fingerprinting him, and then placing him in his cell to await his sentencing.
One hour later, Thornhill was dead. While alone in his cell, he had removed his blue dress shirt, secured it to a cell bar approximately 2 meters (6 ft) off the floor, and hanged himself. Medical personnel attempted to revive him, but it was too late.
5 Mad Scientist
We have already seen the use of cyanide as a means of suicide on this list, and we will see it once again after this. However, what is very intriguing about the case surrounding Alan Bruce Chmurny is that he was a scientist who undoubtedly was extremely intelligent yet had a dark and evil soul.
In 2001, Chmurny was on trial for attempted murder at Howard Circuit Court in Maryland. His plot to kill a former coworker was intriguing as well. Was he planning on using a gun? No. A knife? No. Strangulation? Wrong again.
Perhaps those were beneath him on an intellectual scale. Instead, Chmurny placed mercury tablets in the air ducts of his former coworker’s station wagon. You have to give him credit for originality.
After being found guilty of attempted murder, he faced a maximum sentence of more than 30 years behind bars, and at his age, most likely that meant a life sentence. In saying so, he took his fate into his own hands, said goodbye to his attorney, and swallowed a cyanide pill in open court, which obviously proved fatal.
4 The Garage
Wylie Chambers, 57, was described as a handsome man who presented himself well. However, he was known to have quite the temper from time to time, and that proved true on June 6, 2014.
On that summer day, Chambers apparently lost his cool when he pulled a gun on two female relatives, demanding that they tell him the whereabouts of his girlfriend. We can assume that his girlfriend had good reasons for keeping her distance that particular day.
In frustration, Chambers fired a warning shot at the ground. No one was hurt, and nothing further happened other than Chambers being arrested. Chambers was apparently unaware of the consequences that would result from his actions. He had hoped for only probation, and having turned down a plea deal for a three-year stint in prison, he now faced up to 40 years.
His attorney described Chambers as being “unusually upset” about the idea of being behind bars. He was also extremely concerned about the well-being of his dog, which was undergoing surgery at the time of the trial.
When the judge called for a lunch recess, Chambers made his way to the courthouse garage, took a gun from his car, and shot himself in the head. The courthouse went on lockdown for about an hour, not allowing anyone to enter or exit the building. Chambers’s attorney described him as not being “prison material.”
3 The Basement
In January 2015, 48-year-old Robert Newell shot himself in the head at the Thurgood Marshall US Courthouse at 40 Centre Street in Lower Manhattan. The incident took place around 5:30 AM in the basement locker room when Newell was nearing the end of his shift as a security officer for the courthouse. It was reported that Newell was alone at the time, and no one bore witness to the suicide.
A further investigation into this story shows that Newell was a retired police officer for the NYPD. He had joined the force in 1986, serving in both the US Marshals Service as well as the Narcotics Division. However, following an on-the-job injury that Newell sustained when a criminal slammed into his patrol car, he was forced to retire in 2000. He had been on disability and was suffering from neck and spinal injuries. Apparently, years of pain and an unwanted retirement drove him to the edge.
In October 2015, 63-year-old lawyer Joseph Scipilliti entered a courthouse in Melun, France—located on the outskirts of Paris—and calmly walked past guards. He planned to end not only his life but the life of France’s youngest court “president of the bar,” Henrique Vannier.
To clarify, a president of the bar is an individual whose professional duties are to oversee conflicts between lawyers and their clients. Upon entering Vannier’s office, Scipilliti pulled a gun and shot Vannier three times and then turned the gun on himself.
Vannier was shot in the shoulder, hip, and chest. However, he was not killed and was rushed to the hospital in critical but stable condition. The day before the shooting, Scipilliti had had a disciplinary meeting with Vannier about verbal and written threats that Scipilliti had made toward Vannier. Scipilliti was facing a three-year suspension from practicing law.
The attack was premeditated. Scipilliti had written in a diary that he published online: “Suicide on its own achieves nothing. A few days later, no one will remember. To make people take notice, you must make a big noise.”
1 Michael Marin
Michael Marin’s death stunned the state of Arizona and perhaps the nation when in 2012, after being convicted on arson charges for burning down his Phoenix mansion, he placed his head in his hands and calmly slipped a cyanide pill into his mouth. As stunned viewers watched on TV, Marin began snorting, gagging, and turning red as a beet. He ultimately collapsed to the floor.
The one-time millionaire—who had once been seen in scuba gear along with an oxygen tank as he emerged from a bedroom window of his home that he had engulfed in flames—was later pronounced dead of cyanide poisoning.
What captivated Arizona was that a man had not only committed suicide in an open court but that they had seen it unfold on television, which was hard for one to comprehend. A feeling of justice was felt for his guilty verdict yet a sense of sadness in regard to an unnecessary means to an end.
Adam is just a hubcap trying to hold on in the fast lane.