VALE — A 47-year-old transient man who was lodged in the Malheur County Jail apparently committed suicide over the weekend.
Zelon Oneal, whose driver’s license indicates he last lived in Utah, was due in court on Monday to face charges of criminal mischief in the first degree, a felony, along with multiple misdemeanors. These included escape in the third degree, interfering with a peace officer, resisting arrest and menacing.
He was being held on a $55,000 bail.
According to online court records, Oneal’s court-appointed attorney had sought an aid and assist evaluation on Sept. 27, and a court hearing for a status check was set for today.
Oneal never received a mental health evaluation by a certified examiner, to see if he was well enough to aid and assist his own defense in a court setting, according to Malheur County District Attorney David Goldthorpe. He explained that it was decided at a hearing last week that “he was going to have that done,” but the judge had not yet put the order in for an evaluation yet.
Goldthorpe said there is no timeline attached to the defense having to make such a request, but that once a request is made, the judge would have to rule on that as soon as possible. From there, the evaluation at the state hospital has to be done within 30 days.
In regards to Oneal, his defense sought an evaluation by a community provider in September, but was unsuccessful, according to Malheur County District Attorney David Goldthorpe. In November, his attorney notified the judge he was planning to request the order on Nov. 18.
In regards to Zelon Oneal, his defense sought an evaluation by a community provider in September, but was unsuccessful, Goldthorpe said. In November, his attorney notified the judge he was planning to request the order during a hearing on Nov. 18; however Oneal committed suicide on Nov. 17 and the judge never got a request.
Wolfe said O’Neal was discovered dead in his single cell at 5:44 a.m. Sunday morning by a deputy who was serving breakfast.
O’Neal was initially booked into the jail on Aug. 30 by Ontario Police, Wolfe said, with his first initial law enforcement contact having occurred seven days prior to that.
Although the jail has cameras, there are no cameras in single cells, according to the sheriff.
Goldthorpe also said that there were no indications Oneal was a suicide risk, adding that he wasn’t making any threats of harming himself.
Oregon State Police was contacted to conduct the investigation, Wolfe said, indicating they would be looking to ensure there were no criminal elements and that it was actually a suicide.
State Police say their investigation is ongoing.