Second person dies after hanging in Yeadon police custody, as Morcho family files lawsuit

A Yeadon Borough Police Department vehicle

A Yeadon Borough Police Department vehicle is pictured in a file photo. (YBPD/Facebook)

A 34-year-old woman who hanged herself in Yeadon Borough police custody on Election Day has died. A borough spokesperson confirmed her death on Tuesday.

The woman sustained life-threatening injuries after she hanged herself while in police custody. She was arrested following a domestic incident. During her encounter with law enforcement, she repeatedly told officers that she was suffering from a mental health episode and she would kill herself if placed in a holding cell.

The woman was hospitalized at Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center in West Philadelphia, where she has since succumbed to her injuries.

She is the second person to hang themselves in Yeadon’s holding cells in just the last four months. The community is demanding answers.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Lawyers representing the estate of Shawn Morcho, the 22-year-old man who took his life in July, filed an amended complaint against the borough, police department, and several individual officers.

A borough spokesperson declined to comment on pending litigation.

Attorney Scott Bonebrake filed the original lawsuit in August. He brought in James Famiglio to serve as co-counsel due to his experience dealing with hangings at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Delaware County.

“We’re asking for relief. Normally, it’s in money damages, which this case is about, but if you look at the complaint, it says basically, the family is looking for answers,” Famiglio said.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, calls for “answers, damages, and justice for the tragic and unnecessary death of Shawn Morcho.”

The suit alleges that Yeadon police officers violated Morcho’s civil and constitutional rights, among several other claims.

Morcho’s encounter with the police began a little before noon on July 5 with a 911 call from his mother. According to Famiglio, Morcho was acting “irrationally” and his mother wanted him taken to a mental health facility.

From body camera footage to video from Yeasdon’s holding cell, Famiglio said, it is clear that Morcho was exhibiting “irrational behavior” and needed to be watched.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

That never happened.

“They basically took this young man who clearly was in distress, not acting rationally, demonstrated that in the police car, put him in the cell, and just abandoned him — and this was so preventable,” Famiglio said.

Famiglio said the police never asked Morcho’s mother any questions about his mental health. He said they didn’t take him for treatment because of an outstanding warrant.

However, he emphasized that Morcho was neglected under police custody.

“If they had just monitored the cell every five minutes — if someone glanced at the video, would he be alive? Probably,” Famiglio said.

He said the police department is in “disarray” and there is a “calamity of errors” in this case.

The Morcho estate is seeking damages from Yeadon and its police department in excess of $150,000.

The U.S. Department of Justice is currently investigating the two hangings. In the meantime, no one will be held in Yeadon’s holding cells. Instead, pretrial detainees will be jailed in neighboring municipalities.

Yeadon is still searching for a police chief.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal