Convicted murderer hanged himself and was found dead in his prison cell

From: Deseret News

By Jacob Hancock
Published: Monday, June 22, 2009 10:10 p.m. MDT

Convicted murderer Danny Martin Gallegos hanged himself and was found dead in his prison cell Sunday night.

Besides the murder of an 18-year-old girl in 1990, Gallegos gained notoriety from a clever jailbreak from the Daggett County Jail two years ago when he and another inmate escaped through a security door and scaled a razor-wire fence.

The brazen escape in September 2007 earned Gallegos and fellow convicted murderer Juan Diaz-Arevalo nearly six days of paranoid freedom before police captured both men in southwestern Wyoming. They had assaulted and hijacked a truck from a retired Utah policeman. After a shoot-out in which Gallegos was wounded, the two men were arrested.

Gallegos had been held in a maximum-security cell at the Utah State Prison in Draper following his recapture. He has had “limited contact with other prisoners,” said Angie Welling, prison spokeswoman.

“He was found (hanging) in his cell during a routine check that officers do every night,” Welling said. “They immediately started resuscitation, but it was unsuccessful.”
About 45 minutes later, the 51-year-old prisoner was pronounced dead.
Gallegos didn’t have a cellmate and had never been on suicide watch before, Welling said. She wouldn’t say what he used to hang himself, but noted suicide is “rare” in the prison.
“They (prison personnel) are usually pretty good about watching out for that kind of stuff,” she said.
Gallegos was denied parole in 2005 and his next parole hearing was scheduled for 2025.

January 2003 – 52 year-old Charles Miller hanged himself by stringing his shoelaces around his bed frame while being detained in the Olympus Mental Health Unit of Utah State Prison. Even though he was “depressed and suicidal”, he was not placed on suicide watch. He was pronounced dead at University Hospital one hour after he was found. The details of Miller’s crime, which resulted in his 6 year sentence, are somwhat bizarre. Miller hunted down his wife, 41-year-old Sharon Miller, to the Tooele County Courthouse, where she signed a protective court order against him. As she was pulling away from the courthouse, he rammed her SUV with his pickup, flipping it, and then swiftly dove inside the vehicle and stabbed her to death with a 10 inch long screwdriver. (29 Jan 2003 The Salt Lake Tribune)

August 1998 – A botched suicide attempt left death-row serial killer Roberto Arguelles hospitalized in critical condition. Arguelles was found hanging by a laundry bag in his cell located in section 4 of the Uinta I cell block. An hour later he was shipped to LDS hospital. Days before this suicide attempt Arguelles had already tried to kill himself by slitting his wrists, but because he was placed under full-surveillance security watch, he was unsuccessful. The killer of four had managed to hook the string of a laundry-bag around a metal bar above his door while stringing the bag around his neck. Arguelles was sentenced to die by a firing squad in June of 1997 for for the kidnapping and murdering of four women. (13 August 1998 The Salt Lake Tribune)


Over the past two years, seven Utah inmates have committed suicide, six of them by hanging. That is a marked increase from 1999, which saw one suicide, and 2000, when two were recorded. By comparison, there have been four suicides in Idaho prisons since 1999, according to the Idaho Department of Corrections. At about 5,800 inmates, Idaho’s current prison population nearly equals Utah’s.

The number of inmate suicides has not gone unnoticed by the Utah Department of Corrections. A committee of prison officials has been meeting on the issue since February, said Richard Garden, director of Corrections’ Bureau of Clinical Services, which oversees mental health services at the prison. Lindsey Hayes, project director for the Massachusetts-based National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, visited the prison in August. Hayes, known as a national expert on suicide prevention in jails and prisons, was invited by Garden to evaluate Utah’s system and suggest ways the state could improve its suicide prevention efforts.

“No one demanded this or even suggested it,” Garden told The Tribune in an e-mail “We simply want to improve in this tragic area.”

Hayes made several recommendations, which Corrections officials are trying to implement, Garden said. They include more frequent cellblock checks by officers, an intermediary “step-down” observation period for inmates on suicide watch and improved infirmary cameras.

Still, implementing the recommendations may be hard for a department struggling with budget cuts, a shortage of corrections officers and an overcrowded, and growing, inmate population. And, Garden pointed out, it can be difficult to prevent people from harming themselves if they are determined to do so.

“However, we are concerned, motivated and driven to do all possible for those in need,” he said. “I am very hopeful and satisfied that we are making progress.” Utah’s yearly inmate suicide rate is above the national average, he said, but only slightly: The national average for prisons is .021 percent of the total prison population, while in Utah it is .023 percent.

Still, Utah’s inmate suicides were enough to catch the attention of Jacqueline Moore, a Chicago-based consultant hired by the Legislature to evaluate the state’s prison medical services and determine whether privatizing them would save the state money. In her report, issued earlier this month, Moore praised the prison’s medical staff but called the suicide rate a “major area of concern warranting significant departmental attention.”

But she said corrections’ initiative toward suicide prevention, as evidenced by their hiring of Hayes, “is a positive first step.” None of the 10 inmates who committed suicide since 1999 were on suicide watch — a supervision program that involves housing inmates in an acute-care cell in the prison infirmary or the Olympus Mental Health Unit. The areas are staffed by nurses 24 hours a day, Garden said, and frequent checks are made. Mental health staffers also see them daily.

Prisoners on suicide watch are deprived of all implements, such as belts or shoelaces, they could use to harm themselves, and wear only a smock. Inmates who are placed on suicide watch are those who have threatened to kill or hurt themselves or those who have made attempts, even half-hearted ones, Garden said.

Utah Prison Suicides

* Sept. 21, 1999: Ronald Viles, 36. Hanging.
* April 13, 2000: Michael Moore, 43. Hanging.
* June 7, 2000: Richard Burns, 27. Hanging.
* March 22, 2002: Bert Bounds, 39. Hanging.
* May 21, 2002: Brandon Gurule, 25. Hanging.
* Sept. 27, 2002: Scott Reightley, 49. OD.
* Dec. 31, 2002: Laurin Johnson, 44. Hanging.
* Jan. 26, 2003: Charles Miller, 52. Hanging.
* April 20, 2003: Aaron Wright, 27. Hanging.
* July 16, 2003: Daniel Pagano, 49. Hanging.

Source: Utah Department of Corrections