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Erie County Holding Center inmate dies in apparent suicide

An Erie County Holding Center inmate has died after being found with a noose around his neck days ago, state officials confirmed Tuesday.

Michael J. Girard, 33, who had been living in Cheektowaga, died in the Erie County Medical Center on Sunday.

While aides to Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard did not respond to Buffalo News inquiries about the apparent suicide, the death was confirmed by the State Commission of Correction, the agency that regulates local jails in New York. The commission will now begin an official investigation, as it does with all of the state's in-custody deaths.

Police and court records show Girard was booked into the jail May 21, after he and a Cheektowaga woman were allegedly involved in an assault on a motorist at Buffalo's Main and Utica streets. He apparently hanged himself from his cell's bars on May 24.

After finding that Erie County's Jail Management Division has wrongly reported serious jail incidents, including attempted suicides, in the past, the commission insisted that Howard's officials file accurate reports to Albany. The commission later ranked the Erie County jails -- the Holding Center in downtown Buffalo and the Correctional Facility in Alden -- as among the five worst in the state. But on Tuesday, a commission spokeswoman said the Jail Management Division properly reported the latest hanging and death.

Girard's death appears to be the second suicide, and third death, in an Erie County jail in the last year. Correctional Facility inmate Vincent Sorrentino hanged himself in July, and Correctional Facility inmate David Stitt of Hamburg died of an apparent heart attack in November.

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