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Delaware inmate who filed lawsuit over mental illness dies in apparent suicide

A convicted sex offender being held at Delaware’s maximum-security prison on a probation violation charge has died by an apparent suicide, prison officials said Thursday.

Department of Correction officials said Brandon Lee Panchigar, 36, who has a reported history of suicide attempts, was found unconscious in his cell about 1 p.m. Wednesday. He was pronounced dead less than an hour later while en route to a hospital. His body was turned over to the Division of Forensic Science for an autopsy.

Panchigar was being held in lieu of $20,000 cash bail on a violation of probation for robbery, and an additional $10,000 secured bail for assault in a detention facility. Panchigar, who has been in and out of prison for many years, was convicted of fourth-degree rape when he was 12 years old.

In a handwritten lawsuit filed last February, Panchigar described himself as “SMI,” meaning seriously mentally ill, and said he had tried to kill himself at least twice while in DOC custody. In a barely legible scrawl, he wrote of repeatedly ripping open his scrotum with his bare hands, and banging his head on steel doors and concrete walls.

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“I spent 6 months on PCO (psychiatric close observation) smearing feces, hurting myself and suffering in physical, emotional and psychological pain and anguish,” wrote Panchigar, who also mentioned being under suicide watch while imprisoned at Rikers Island in New York City.

It is unclear whether Panchigar was under psychiatric observation at the time of his final suicide attempt. The nature of his injuries also was not disclosed.

In the lawsuit, Panchigar said that after he had “ripped myself open” again last January, he was “rudely patched up” and told by a nurse that she would let him bleed to death the next time.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying Panchigar, who claimed he was the victim of medical neglect, discrimination and retaliation, had failed to state an actionable constitutional claim against anyone for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.

Panchigar filed an amended complaint, which the judge said contained sufficient details to allege viable claims for constitutional violations. The judge nevertheless dismissed that complaint in November because of pleading deficiencies, while giving Panchigar one more opportunity to file a revised complaint.

On Monday, the judge ordered the case closed after Panchigar failed to meet a Dec. 16 deadline for filing a new complaint or making his intentions known in handwriting that was legible.

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