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Sask. woman charged with husband's murder died in jail awaiting psychiatric care, inquest hears

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Warning: This article contains details that some readers may find troubling.

A woman who died in a Saskatchewan jail was waiting to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital, according to inquest testimony.

Elaine Behm, 50, was found dead in her jail cell on October 1, 2020. A coroners' service inquest into her death is underway in Prince Albert this week.

According to inquest testimony,  a provincial court judge said Behm should be transferred to Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford for a psychiatric assessment. 

Behm was charged with second-degree murder in the Aug. 25 death of her husband Darren Behm, 51, and was awaiting a trial.

On the day of her husband's death, she attempted to hang herself, and cut her wrists, the inquest heard. 

The order for a psychiatric assessment was issued on Sept. 10.

Three weeks later, she hung herself in her cell at Pine Grove Correctional Centre in Prince Albert, witnesses testified.

A correctional officer said it appeared Behm used elastics bands from clothing to hang herself and used a vent as a ligature point. Since Behm's death the vents have been replaced to prevent similar incidents, she said.

Coroner Robert Kennedy and the jury heard how staff used a 911 tool, a small sharp knife, to cut the ligature. Staff made lifesaving attempts, but they were unsuccessful. Shortly after, Behm was pronounced dead by medical professionals.

One correctional officer described Behm as “paranoid” and said she showed signs of “high anxiety." The correctional officer said Behm "believed things might happen that were highly unlikely."

A Pine Grove staff nurse testified that Behm told her she had no intentions of self-harm.

“The last time I saw her, I didn’t see this coming,” the nurse said.

The inquest into Behm's death was adjourned until Tuesday morning.

Inquests are routinely ordered following any in-custody death in Saskatchewan.

The goal of an inquest is to better understand the circumstances surrounding a person's death.

The jury can also make recommendations that might prevent similar deaths in the future.

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