Report Of Suspect's Jail Suicide Is Questioned By His Family The Bellmawr Handyman Was Charged With Killing A Cherry Hill Woman. His Relatives Want Some Answers.

Posted: June 15, 1998

CAMDEN — The family of David Tice - the Bellmawr handyman charged in the murder of a Cherry Hill widow 12 days ago - is skeptical about reports that the accused man hanged himself Saturday in his jail cell at the Camden County Jail, a family spokesman said.

Tice's relatives want many questions answered before they accept suicide as the cause of death, said Len Jenoff, a private investigator who has been a family spokesman.

Tice had been accused of beating and choking to death former nurse Shirley Holland, 69, during a robbery at her Cherry Hill home. He was arraigned last week, faced the possibility of a death sentence, and had been depressed, Jenoff said.

The private investigator said yesterday that officials from the Camden County Prosecutor's Office informed Tice's family about midnight Saturday that Tice had been found hanged.

Corrections officers discovered him at 8:27 p.m. in a bathroom in the Camden County Jail while he was under a suicide watch, Jenoff said.

The investigators told the family a suicide note, signed by Tice, had been found, Jenoff said. But the private investigator said the family remained skeptical.

``I want to see the so-called suicide note, and then I want to get an explanation of where they found him,'' Jenoff said. ``When I find out where he was discovered and if it coincides with times they said they found him, then I will say it was a suicide.''

Jenoff said investigators told the family that David Tice was found hanging from a sheet tied to rafters in a bathroom. Jenoff said he was later told that Tice had been found hanging in his cell. He said he also heard conflicting reports of the time of death.

``He could not have done it in two places,'' Jenoff said.

Gregory Reinert, a spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, would not comment on the circumstances or time of Tice's death. He said that Tice was found and that ``it is possible the cell might have a bathroom.''

He would not confirm reports of a suicide note.

In several prison conversations with Tice, Jenoff said, he was depressed and had expressed suicidal thoughts. But Jenoff said he did not think Tice was serious.

``I asked him, `You're not going to kill yourself, are you?' '' Jenoff recalled from a Friday conversation with Tice. ``He said, `No, I'm not going to kill myself.' I was very surprised he was found dead.''

Jenoff said Tice repeatedly denied killing Holland. If he did kill himself, Jenoff said, it may have been because he was depressed over his breakup with his second wife.

``He assured me when he left the Holland house Mrs. Holland was alive,'' Jenoff said. ``He told me three times he did not do it.''

Investigators told the family that Tice was discovered dead after he did not respond when his name was called out, Jenoff said. Three corrections officers were handing out medication, the private investigator said.

Jenoff and Tice's brother, John, will view the body today, Jenoff said. He said the viewing, along with results of an autopsy, might answer the family's questions.

``They are very upset and bitter,'' Jenoff said. ``If their son was on suicide watch, they want to know why and how he could kill himself.''

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