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Thursday, Jul 31, 2014

Pinellas inmate chose death over prison

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Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2014 at 12:06 PM

CLEARWATER — Three years ago, a fellow inmate at the Pinellas County Jail told authorities that David Tyler “would rather cash out than go back to prison,” according to court documents.

On Saturday, Tyler did exactly that.

A few weeks before he was to be sentenced in a solicitation-to-commit murder case, Tyler, a 56-year-old convicted child rapist, hung himself with a sheet from a sprinkler in a single jail cell, sheriff’s spokeswoman Cristen Rensel said Tuesday.

Rensel said Tyler was not under suicide watch at the jail, and he had not made any statements to the effect he wanted to kill himself. He had been put in protective custody at his own request, Rensel said.

Tyler’s death is the latest instance of someone dying while in the sheriff’s custody.

Within the last two months, internal affairs reports have been released in two other deaths: Thomas Morrow, who was kicked to death by another arrestee in a prisoner transport vehicle on July 6; and Kelly Harding, who was asphyxiated on July 20 with toilet paper by his cell mate, a man charged with doing the same thing to his girlfriend.

In February, a federal jury awarded $975,000 to the estate of a 50-year-old mentally-ill woman who died as the result of the medical treatment she received at the jail.

Tyler, who spent more than 25 years in prison in Ohio for raping and stalking boys, was arrested here in 2011 on charges he was stalking a 13-year-old boy. He had asked to have his $200,000 bail reduced so he could go free until trial. But an aunt, Fanny Bear, advised against it, considering her nephew’s history, and he remained incarcerated.

Prosecutors said Tyler was incensed and enlisted a fellow inmate, Daniel Kern, whom he had befriended, to help him find a hit-man to kill her. Kern instead told sheriff’s deputies, one of whom pretended to be a hit-man in a recorded jail conversation with Tyler.

Soon after, Tyler was charged with solicitation to commit murder and he was convicted of the crime last month.

Sentencing was scheduled for May 23, and Tyler faced a possible sentence of 15 years to life.

He did not want to go back to prison and had told Kern he had contemplated suicide. He had discussed shooting himself with Kern, wondering what was the best way to do it.

sthompson@tampatrib.com.

(727) 215-6504

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