Medical examiner rules Epstein death a suicide by hanging

NEW YORK (AP) — Jeffrey Epstein's prison death has been ruled a suicide by hanging, the medical examiner's office said Friday.

Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City on Aug. 10, touching off outrage and disbelief over how such a high-profile prisoner, known for socializing with powerful people including presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, could have gone unwatched.

The Bureau of Prisons said Epstein had apparently killed himself, but that didn't squelch conspiracy theories about his death.

SEE ALSO: Epstein's alleged co-conspirator Ghislaine Maxwell found in L.A. — at In-N-Out

Epstein, who was charged with sexually abusing numerous underage girls over several years, had been placed on suicide watch last month after he was found on his cell floor on July 23 with bruising on his neck.

But multiple people familiar with operations at the jail say he was taken off the watch after about a week and put back in a high-security housing unit where he was less closely monitored, but still supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes.

Attorney General William Barr says officials have uncovered "serious irregularities" at the jail. The FBI and the Justice Department's inspector general are both investigating Epstein's death.

Jail guards on duty the night of Epstein's death are suspected of falsifying log entries to show they were checking on inmates every half-hour as required, according to several people familiar with the matter.

A guard in Epstein's unit was working a fifth straight day of overtime and another guard was working mandatory overtime, the people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the lacked authorization to publicly discuss the investigation.

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NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against billionaire financier Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 08: Two of the purported victims of multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein, Michelle Licata (L) and Courtney Wild leave a Manhattan court house after a hearing on sex trafficking charges for financier Jeffrey Epstein on July 08, 2019 in New York City. Epstein is charged with having operated a sex trafficking ring in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Two of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims, Michelle Licata (L) and Courtney Wild (R), exit the courthouse after the billionaire financier appeared for a hearing on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, center, sits with attorneys Martin Weinberg, left, and Marc Fernich during his arraignment in New York federal court, Monday, July 8, 2019. Epstein pleaded not guilty to federal sex trafficking charges. The 66-year-old is accused of creating and maintaining a network that allowed him to sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls from 2002 to 2005. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
NEW YORK, US - JULY 08: David Boies, attorney for the alleged sex victims of the US financier Jeffreey Epstein case, delivers a speech to the media outside the United States Federal Court on July 08, 2019 in New York, United States. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: A residence belonging to Jeffrey Epstein at East 71st street is seen on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein is charged with running a sex-trafficking operation out of his opulent mansion. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Prosecutors exit the room after US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Member of the press listen as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: A protest group called "Hot Mess" hold up signs of Jeffrey Epstein and President Donald Trump in front of the Federal courthouse on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman speaks during a news conference, in New York, Monday, July 8, 2019. Federal prosecutors announced sex trafficking and conspiracy charges against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. Court documents unsealed Monday show Epstein is charged with creating and maintaining a network that allowed him to sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
In this courtroom sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, second from right, listens along with defense attorneys, from left, Marc Fernich, Michael Miller, and Martin Weinberg as Judge Richard M. Berman denies him bail during a hearing in federal court, Thursday, July 18, 2019 in New York. Judge Berman denied bail for the jailed financier on sex trafficking charges, saying the danger to the community that would result if the jet-setting defendant was free formed the "heart of this decision." (Aggie Kenny via AP)
FILE - This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Jeffrey Epstein. A judge denied bail for jailed financier Jeffrey Epstein on sex trafficking charges Thursday, July 18, 2019, saying the danger to the community that would result if the jet-setting defendant was free formed the "heart of this decision." (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP)
In this courtroom sketch, Judge Richard M. Berman speaking as he denies Jeffrey Epstein bail during a hearing in federal court, Thursday, July 18, 2019 in New York. Judge Berman denied bail for the jailed financier on sex trafficking charges, saying the danger to the community that would result if the jet-setting defendant was free formed the "heart of this decision." (Aggie Kenny via AP)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, left, and his attorney Martin Weinberg listen during a bail hearing in federal court, Monday, July 15, 2019 in New York. Epstein's lawyers want him released on house arrest to his Manhattan home while he awaits trial. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
This courtroom sketch shows Judge Richard Berman as he speaks during the Jeffrey Epstein bail hearing in federal court, Monday July 15, 2019. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, left, listens as accuser Annie Farmer, second from right, speaks during a bail hearing in federal court, Monday, July 15, 2019 in New York. Farmer says she was 16 when she "had the misfortune" of meeting Epstein and later went to spend time with him in New Mexico. Accuser Courtney Wild, right, said in the hearing that she was abused by the wealthy financier in Palm Beach, Florida, starting at age 14. Epstein's lawyers want him released on house arrest to his Manhattan home while he awaits trial. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, left, and attorney Reid Weingarten, second from right, listen as attorney Martin Weinberg, right, speaks during a bail hearing in federal court, Monday, July 15, 2019 in New York. Epstein's lawyers have insisted he will not run. They want him released on house arrest to his Manhattan home while he awaits trial. Courtney Wild, third from left, said in the hearing that she was abused by the wealthy financier in Palm Beach, Florida, starting at age 14. She called him a "scary person" and urged detention "for the safety of any other girls" out there. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
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U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who is in charge of the criminal case against Epstein, asked the jail's warden this week for answers about the earlier episode, writing in a letter Monday that it had "never been definitively explained."

The warden replied that an internal investigation was completed but that he couldn't provide information because the findings were being incorporated into investigations into Epstein's death.

The Associated Press often does not report details of suicide methods, but has made an exception because Epstein's cause of death is pertinent to the ongoing investigations.

The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Thursday that the autopsy revealed that several bones in Epstein's neck had been broken, leading to speculation his death was a homicide.

Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson issued a statement Thursday in response to those articles, saying: "In all forensic investigations, all information must be synthesized to determine the cause and manner of death. Everything must be consistent; no single finding can be evaluated in a vacuum."

The medical examiner's ruling came a day after two more women sued Jeffrey Epstein's estate, saying he sexually abused them.

The suit, filed Thursday in a federal court in New York, claims the women were working as hostesses at a popular Manhattan restaurant in 2004 when they were recruited to give Epstein massages.

One was 18 at the time. The other was 20.

SEE ALSO: Painting of Bill Clinton wearing blue dress and bright red heels reportedly hung in Jeffrey Epstein's NYC mansion

The lawsuit says an unidentified female recruiter offered the hostesses hundreds of dollars to provide massages to Epstein, saying he "liked young, pretty girls to massage him," and wouldn't engage in any unwanted touching. The women say Epstein groped them anyway.

One plaintiff now lives in Japan, the other in Baltimore. They seek $100 million in damages, citing depression, anxiety, anger and flashbacks.

Other lawsuits, filed over many years by other women, accused him of hiring girls as young as 14 or 15 to give him massages, then subjecting them to sex acts.

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Balsamo reported from Washington.

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