CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — UPDATE 5/10/2021:
An internal investigation into Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office corrections deputy Mark DeHart began on January 13. This investigation stemming from the suicide of inmate James Palmucci on October 26, 2020.
Internal Affairs determined that DeHart did violate Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office policies of Violation of Official Procedures or Directives (Endangering Persons or Property), and Untruthfulness.
These policies were violated when Dehart failed to effectively determine if lifesaving intervention was appropriate and providing false testimony of events at the time of Palmucci’s suicide.
DeHart was notified of the agency’s intent to withdraw his appointment then went out on FMLA. His appointment was ultimately withdrawn due to exhaustion of FMLA time before final discipline was able to be imposed.
Jail staff discovered James Palmucci deceased in his cell on the morning of Oct. 26.
James Palmucci was originally booked into the Charlotte County Jail on 83 charges related to sex crimes against children.
Those charges ranging from possession of child pornography to molestation of children under the age of 12 years.
“We had a good amount of evidence towards him obviously, we arrested him on those charges and the state was going forward with those charges so he was looking at a decent amount of time," said Lt. John Heck. commander of major crimes unit of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies say Palmucci was found with fabric around his neck as staff looked to notify him of a morning court appearance.
“He did have an arraignment this morning, so a lot of people when they’re faced with different types of investigations you don’t know what they’re thinking, obviously he thought the worst,” said Lt. Heck.
Deputies have not confirmed the death a suicide, but say by all indications it seems to be self-inflicted.
“Our investigation will put the facts out of how it happened, what time it happened, and we’ll go from there,” said Lt. Heck.
Lt. Heck says the focus now is getting the victims the help they need, and encouraging others to come forward.
“If they still come forward, and they were a victim, we can point them in the right direction for those resources to get counseling through the care advocates that we have at our office or the state attorney's office," said Lt. Heck.
Palmucci was cleared for general population with similar classified inmates and housed alone in a cell.
Charlotte County Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit is currently investigating his death.