Inmate’s death in Malheur County Jail followed lapses in security checks

The bedding and slippers as Oregon State Police troopers found them last November as they investigated the death of an inmate at the Malheur County Jail in Vale. (Oregon State Police photo)

VALE – The disturbing end to a troubled man’s life in a Malheur County jail cell last fall drew scant public attention.

Yet interviews and government records obtained by the Malheur Enterprise reveal that Zelon O’Neal’s suicide occurred after jailers left him unmonitored for hours despite a history of instability and troublesome episodes at the jail.

He died Nov. 17 – just hours before his attorney was to appear before a judge to ask that O’Neal be committed to the Oregon State Hospital for treatment.

It was the first suicide in the Vale jail since it opened in 1996.

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