Spokesperson: Eric Knysz clinically brain dead

Eric Knysz waits for the verdict in his murder trial. (Feb. 25, 2014)

JACKSON, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who killed Michigan State Police Trooper Paul Butterfield has been declared clinically brain dead after hanging himself while in prison, a family spokesperson told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday evening.

The spokesperson said Knysz remained on a ventilator at Allegiance Health hospital in Jackson while doctors performed tests to see if his organs could be donated. Those tests were expected to be completed within 24 to 36 hours. Knysz is registered as an organ donor.

Earlier Tuesday, state prison officials refused to release information about what happened before Knysz tried to commit suicide Monday.

A friend of Knysz’s family told 24 Hour News 8 that his father is “confused” about the circumstances leading to the suicide attempt. Knysz’s sister said the family hadn’t asked prison officials for answers. She said the prison has been “gracious” to her family since the attempt.

Sources say Knysz had been on suicide watch at the Mason County Jail, where he was held before he was sentenced last week to life in prison for Trooper Butterfield’s September 2013 murder. Sources said Knysz did not make any suicide attempts or threats.

Knsyz, 20, was transferred last Thursday to the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections and sent where incoming state prisoners first go for screening: the Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center in Jackson.

Then, four days later, he tried to kill himself with a bed sheet in his cell, an MDOC spokesman said.

Law enforcement sources told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday that emergency crews used CPR to revive Knysz, and that he left a short suicide note for his family.

Monday, MDOC spokesman Russell Marlan refused to say whether Knysz had been placed on suicide watch once he reached prison. He wouldn’t say whether Knysz had been placed in an observation room or whether he should have had access to a bed sheet.

Prison policy requires immediate screening for any incoming prisoners who might be suicidal. It also requires placing them in “observation rooms” — with a bed and only a tear-resistant blanket — if they engage in suicidal behavior or threaten suicide. But, so far, prison officials have not said what was done in Knysz’s case.

However, a law enforcement source told 24 Hour News 8 Knysz was in segregation and was not on suicide watch. The source also said guards were checking on Knysz every 30 minutes, which is standard procedure.

Marlan said MDOC is investigating the suicide attempt, but there’s no indication when that investigation might be complete.

“We investigate all deaths and suicide attempts that occur in our custody,” Marlan said in an email. “It would be inappropriate for me to comment on anything more as that investigation moves forward.”

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