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Aug. 14, 2020

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Clark County Jail inmate dies two days after suicide attempt

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter

A man suspected of killing a Vancouver woman died two days after attempting suicide at the Clark County Jail last week, jail staff said Wednesday.

Corrections deputies found the inmate, identified as David James Barker, unresponsive in his cell on the morning of July 7, Jail Chief Ric Bishop said.

They administered medical assistance, including CPR, and Barker was taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. He remained there in critical condition until he died on Saturday, Bishop said.

Barker, 44, had been in custody pending trial on a charge of second-degree murder in the slaying of Sharon Allison in her apartment at Columbia House, 130 W. 24th St.

Allison was last seen alive on the morning of May 8, 2015, talking to an unidentified man in the hallway of her apartment building. The next day, police found her body inside her apartment. Her body had been placed inside an 80-gallon, blue recycling bin in her living room, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Clark County Superior Court.

A 10-month investigation culminated in March when detectives linked Barker to Allison’s death based on DNA found on a cigarette butt and lamp stand inside her apartment, according to court records. He was arrested in Portland by the U.S. Marshals Violent Offender Task Force, police said.

During his first appearance on the charge, Barker told the court, “she asked me to do it.”

“It was compassion,” Barker said as the charges against him were read aloud. “Yeah, it was compassion. She asked me to do it. I’m not a monster.”

The Camas Police Department is investigating Barker’s death, but the preliminary information showed that Baker used a bed sheet to strangle himself and that other inmates knew of his plans to kill himself but didn’t report them to corrections staff, Bishop said.

“It is extremely frustrating that in this case, as well as our other recent suicides, we’ve learned that friends, family members or other inmates knew of the suicide plans but never reported the pending suicide to the jail,” Sheriff Chuck Atkins said in a press release. “We have multiple layers of suicide prevention in place but a crucial part of that is the simple act of letting us know if your loved one or your cellmate is planning to harm themselves.”

Bishop pointed out that in recent years the jail has taken extensive measures to prevent suicides among those in custody, including both physical changes to the facility and increasing training among corrections staff, but said that the effort can’t stop there.

“We are doing all we can to minimize the risk of suicide for our inmates … but we need our community, family members, and other inmates to take this issue as seriously as we do,” Bishop said in the release. “If an inmate talks about suicide, we need to know about it.”

Changes at the jail included retrofitting sprinkler heads, shower fixtures, ventilation fixtures and beds to make them more suicide resistant. Officials also trained all corrections deputies on crisis intervention techniques.

In some cases, the sheriff’s office has taken what it describes as extraordinary measures to reduce the risk of suicide.

“Earlier this year we instituted the use of a 24/7 suicide watch in which we took the step of literally having a corrections deputy sit outside the inmate’s cell watching the inmate nonstop,” Bishop said. “Due to our staffing shortage we have to do this type of suicide watch using overtime.”

Barker was not on any sort of suicide watch, Bishop said, but added that if staff had been notified of the threats, they would have taken the necessary precautions.

Family and friends of an inmate “may have experienced these kinds of threats as manipulations in the past, so they may not take it seriously,” Bishop said. “They have to take it seriously, and they have to notify us. We have people who can determine if it’s a manipulation.”

The 24-hour number to report a potential suicide of a jail inmate is 360-397-2207.