Fla. inmate kills self before sentencing for murder of ex-wife, man
Michael Spiegel gave no sign of suicidal behavior during his time at Lee County Jail
By Kristine Gill
Naples Daily News
LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Michael Spiegel had not made suicidal comments or shown suicidal behavior during his time at a Lee County jail before jumping head first off a second-story landing, Sheriff Mike Scott said Monday.
Spiegel killed himself the day before he was to be sentenced for killing his ex-wife and her fiancé. The 71-year-old was facing a minimum of 25 years in prison for two counts of first-degree murder.
“I can’t speak for the man but I think he did the math and I think he saw what was coming and realized and recognized what was coming and didn’t want to be part of that,” Scott said. “He made a decision to choose death versus what would have amounted to death in prison.”
Spiegel was housed in an area of the Lee County Jail on Ortiz Avenue in Fort Myers with about 20 to 24 other inmates, Scott said. A single corrections officer monitored the space and inmate activity.
It took five to 10 seconds, Scott estimates, for Spiegel to dive off the second floor between a gap in some heavy-duty mesh used to prevent falls and a flight of stairs. Scott estimates the fall was about 12 feet but may have been more if Spiegel stood on a bunk or railing.
The incident was not captured on security footage, Scott said, given its location.
Scott said that while the jail works to prevent suicide among its inmates, not all deaths are preventable.
“Our inmates shave every day. He could have used a razor blade. They write with pencils and pens. He could have plunged one into his carotid artery. The most common method is hanging with bed sheets,” Scott said. “Our corrections officers can only go so far if (inmates are) pre-committed to doing something like this, like Mr. Spiegel was.”
Scott said Spiegel was housed based on his behavior, not based on his crime. Inmates who are not suicidal, who are cooperative and non combative can live in group settings, the sheriff said. Spiegel did not have a history of disciplinary actions during his time as an inmate, Scott said.
“He was a compliant, elderly gent who was serving his time waiting for his sentencing to come down,” Scott said, adding that he spoke personally with Spiegel’s family during his incarceration to make sure he was receiving medications for other general health conditions, not related to his mental health.
Spiegel was convicted in August of killing Marilyn Spiegel and Harry Carlip aboard their boat at a Fort Myers Beach marina two days before the couple planned to sail to Key West for their honeymoon.
Scott said suicides at the jail are rare but that Spiegel’s has gotten extra attention given his high-profile case and the manner in which he died.
“Again, they’re under supervision, of course, but short of strapping him down on all four points, I can’t keep him from ingesting something harmful, etc.,” Scott said. “There’s, again, a variety of ways someone could hurt themselves.”