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Sheriff: Maiden Inmate in Watauga County Jail Dies After Hanging Himself in Cell on Friday

By Jesse Wood

On Friday night, an inmate in the Watauga County Detention Center died after authorities say that Elbert Lee McClain “attempted to harm himself by strangulation” in his single cell, according to the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO).


McClain, 53, of Maiden, was arrested on March 4 after an undercover operation between WCSO and the Blowing Rock Police Department when detectives ceased 119 oxycodone tablets. He was placed in the detention facility on $250,000 bond.

On Friday afternoon at about 1:30 p.m., detention facility officers found McLain hanging and immediately removed the “inmate improvised strangulation device.”

Staff then performed a quick vital sign assessment and found that McLain had no pulse.

Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said that an automatic defibrillator (AED) was then placed on McClain and a pulse was noted via the AED. EMS and paramedics were on the scene by this time.

McClain was transported to Watauga Medical Center, where a pulse was also reported.

“Upon arrival at WMC, the medical Emergency Department medical staff worked for several hours on Mr. McClain, and it was unofficially thought that Mr. McCain had sustained oxygen deprivation,” according to Hagaman.

The sheriff’s office notes that McClain was check on earlier and he was seen eating his noontime meal just before the incident.