A West Philadelphia maintenance man who was sentenced to life without parole for the rape and murder of a former Drexel University graduate student died by suicide in jail, according to officials.
James Harris, 58, was found unresponsive in his cell at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford around 10:40 p.m. on April 13. Officials say prison staff immediately responded and tried to revive him until medical personnel arrived. Harris was then taken to Einstein Montgomery Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 11:10 p.m. Officials later ruled his death as a suicide.
Harris was serving a life sentence at Graterford for the rape and strangulation death of Jasmine Wright, 27. Authorities said Harris raped and killed her back in July of 2015 after he had been fired from the West Philadelphia apartment complex where she lived.
Harris was convicted by a Common Pleas Court judge last month. The judge imposed the mandatory life term and added consecutive sentences totaling 30 to 60 years on rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and burglary counts.
Before he was sentenced, Harris denied that he was responsible. He waived his right to a jury trial in exchange for prosecutors not pursuing the death penalty.
SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Text HOME to 741741 for a Crisis Text Line.