SD Death Row Inmate Commits Suicide

Sep 4, 2014

Prison officials say a man convicted of murdering a Sioux Falls woman apparently hanged himself in his cell. Authorities pronounced James McVay dead at the state penitentiary Thursday morning after CPR attempts failed. 

James McVay lived in capital punishment housing in the Jameson Annex of the state penitentiary – commonly known as death row. In May a jury sentenced McVay to death for the July 20-11 killing of Maybelle Schein. McVay stabbed Schein eight times in her Sioux Falls home before stealing her car; he said it was part of a plot to kill the president. McVay pleaded guilty but mentally ill to first-degree murder.

South Dakota Secretary of Corrections Denny Kaemingk says McVay hanged himself, but examiners will perform an autopsy and investigations are underway.

"It’s standard procedure that the DCI will investigate to see if there are any criminal laws that are broken," Kaemingk says. "From there, it comes to policy and procedures for the DOC to investigate the situation, and that’s what will be done. Of course, the DCI investigation takes precedence over ours at this time."

The man who prosecuted James McVay says McVay was "deeply disturbed" and had "very little respect for human life." Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan released a statement that says, "Although we continue to mourn the loss of Ms. Maybelle Schein, we hope that Mr. McVay's decision to take his own life ends this horrible chapter in their lives and brings them closure. Our thoughts and prayers also go out to the loved ones of Mr. McVay, as they've clearly had to endure many years of turmoil and consternation."

Inmate James McVay is the second prisoner to commit suicide on death row in just more than a decade. In 2003, convicted serial killer Robert LeRoy Anderson hanged himself in his prison cell.