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Walsh County inmate found hanging in cell

An inmate, who was found hanging in his cell at the Walsh County, N.D., jail, died early Friday, according to the sheriff's department.

Fred Martin Houle, 45, of Grafton, N.D., had a bed sheet wrapped around his neck and was hanging from an intercom box that was attached to a side wall, the department said.

Chief Deputy Ronald Jurgens said a correctional officer came across Houle, who was alone in his cell, just before 1 a.m. Paramedics tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him. Foul play does not appear to be involved.

Houle's body has been taken to Bismarck for an autopsy. Jurgens said he would reserve judgment on Houle's cause and manner of death until the autopsy results are available.

Grafton police officers responded Thursday night to a report of a domestic disturbance involving Houle and a family member. Neither party was arrested in connection with the disturbance, but Houle was taken to the jail on a warrant for allegedly writing a bad check. Jurgens said Houle had been drinking alcohol before his arrest.

Before Houle was discovered unresponsive in his cell, there was no suggestion to authorities that he wanted to hurt himself, Jurgens said.

Asked if an event like this makes the jail rethink its practices, he said, "We have policies in effect, and we're confident these policies are reasonable and effective."

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation is looking into Houle's death.