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State Prison Inmate Who Lost Appeal To Kill Himself Found Dead

December 15, 1995

CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) _ Haunted by his rape of a 14-year-old girl but blocked from starving himself by the state Supreme Court, prisoner Stephen Senecal found another way to die.

His body was found Friday, hanging by a sheet from a shower head in the infirmary, Department of Corrections spokesman Al Bucci said. He had not been under a suicide watch and he left no note.

Senecal, 39, was one of two patients in the seven-bed infirmary. The other, a paraplegic, was apparently sleeping when Senecal killed himself, Bucci said.

``It’s what he fought so hard to get and so, in that respect, we have to honor his decision,″ said his lawyer, David Cicilline.

Senecal was serving a 25-year sentence on his no-contest plea to breaking into a home and raping a girl in 1989. Depressed, he stopped eating in May 1994 and said he wanted to die rather than live with his guilt.

Three months later, the 5-foot-10 prisoner had lost about 80 of his 190 pounds and a judge gave prison officials permission to force-feed him through a nasal tube.

In November 1994, another judge ruled the feedings unconstitutional, but ordered them continued while the state appealed.

Last month, the state Supreme Court ordered ``all reasonable and necessary means″ be used to keep Senecal alive, saying it would disrupt prison discipline if he were allowed to starve himself.

Cicilline said he wanted to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Senecal asked him to drop the case.

He resumed eating solid food the day after the Supreme Court decision and was in the infirmary awaiting transfer back to a maximum security section of the prison when he died, Bucci said.

He would have come up for parole in September 1997.

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