As unfounded conspiracy theories continue to swirl about Jeffrey Epstein’s jail cell death, The Washington Post on Wednesday reported a curious detail said to be from the accused sex trafficker’s autopsy report. The paper, citing two people familiar with the report’s finding, said Epstein sustained multiple breaks in his neck bones, including his hyoid bone — a horseshoe-shaped bone that in men is located near the Adam’s apple.
“Such breaks can occur in those who hang themselves, particularly if they are older, according to forensics experts and studies on the subject,” the Post reported. “But they are more common in victims of homicide by strangulation.”
Epstein, who was found dead on Saturday morning in his cell at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, is presumed to have died by suicide — though the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy has yet to release her determination about the cause of the 66-year-old financier’s death.
Since the Post story broke, people in the medical community have called its emphasis into question, with several medical experts telling CNN that the details about Epstein’s death “were more consistent with a suicidal hanging than a strangulation.”
Barbara Sampson, New York’s chief medical examiner, is “confident the cause of death is suicide by hanging, but she wants more information from law enforcement before releasing her determination,” The New York Times earlier reported, citing a city official.
Federal probes have been launched into the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death. As HuffPost has reported, deaths in jail frequently occur under highly preventable circumstances.
Attorney General William Barr acknowledged on Monday that there were “serious irregularities” at the facility where Epstein was being held.
The two guards assigned to watch Epstein may have been asleep at the time of the man’s death, the Times reported. They also allegedly did not check on Epstein and other inmates in his unit for several hours ― and possibly falsified logs to cover up their mistake.
Questions have also been raised as to why Epstein, who was allegedly found with injuries consistent with a suicide attempt on July 23, was taken off suicide watch less than a week later and left alone in his cell.
“We will get to the bottom of what happened,” Barr vowed. “There will be accountability.”
Conspiracy theories have been in no short supply in the aftermath of Epstein’s death. Even President Donald Trump has used his considerable platform of influence to suggest, without evidence, that former President Bill Clinton may have had something to do with Epstein’s passing.
Similarly groundless theories were rejuvenated on social media following the Post’s report about Epstein’s alleged broken hyoid bone.
Jonathan Arden, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, told the Post that while a broken hyoid is more commonly associated with strangulation than suicidal hanging, it “does not exclude” the possibility of the latter.
“If, hypothetically, the hyoid bone is broken, that would generally raise questions about strangulation, but it is not definitive and does not exclude suicidal hanging,” said Arden, who was not involved in the autopsy.
On Friday, Arden issued a statement affirming that the fracture is “well recognized” to occur in suicidal hangings and stressed that “any autopsy finding must be interpreted in the context of the totality of all the findings and the investigation into the circumstances of death.”
This story has been updated with comment from other medical experts and additional remarks from Arden.