NEW BEDFORD — A 34-year-old Truro man who was charged in his mother’s death was found dead in his cell Sunday afternoon at the Ash Street Jail in New Bedford, an apparent victim of suicide, according to reports from the police, prosecutor and the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office.

Adam Howe was found in his cell on Sunday after he had “clogged his airways with wet toilet paper and suffered a medical emergency,” according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office. He was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the office statement says. 

An account by the Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe says Howe was found dead in his cell at 5:14 p.m., Sunday. 

The sheriff’s statement says no cause of death has yet been determined. State Police assigned to the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office are investigating. 

Howe’s death is the latest of seven at the jail since 2013 for which a cause of death has yet to be determined. 

The most recent confirmed suicide at the jail was Oct. 28, 2021, which was one of three confirmed suicides at the jail last year in three successive months, according to information from the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. 

According to a report published in The Standard-Times, a state audit published in 2019 of the Bristol County Sheriffi’s Office included a concern about a higher suicide rate in Bristol County institutions compared to other counties. Five inmates in Bristol County custody took their own lives between 2016 and 2017, and four attempted to kill themselves, according to the audit.

Adam Howe. Credit: Tewksbury Police

O’Keefe’s statement says that after Howe was arrested Friday night at a home in Truro, he was taken to Cape Cod Hospital for breathing difficulty. The sheriff’s statement says he was given a psychiatric evaluation there, and was cleared to be returned to custody. Massachusetts State Police then took him to the Ash Street Jail on Saturday afternoon. 

There, he was placed on a special watch, meaning a corrections officer would look in on him every 15 minutes. He was also clothed in a smock designed to prevent the person wearing it from committing suicide, the Sheriff’s Office says.

According to a statement from O’Keefe, Howe had been arrested and charged with murder Friday night by the Cape Cod Regional SWAT Team inside a home in Truro after emergency crews responded to a call for a “well-being check and a separate report of a fire.”

The crew found a fire on the lawn, and realized that a body was burning. Meanwhile, Howe had run into the house, according to O’Keefe’s office. 

The body was identified as Howe’s mother, Susan Howe, who was 69 years old, O’Keefe’s office said. 

Adam Howe had been taken to Cape Cod Hospital shortly after midnight Saturday after he was having trouble breathing, the DA’s statement says. 

The DA’s account says a judge presided over a proceeding at about 3 a.m. to determine where Howe could be taken after he was released from Cape Cod Hospital. After Bridgewater State Hospital declined to accept him, citing a provision of the law, Howe was taken to Ash Street Jail. 

He arrived with a discharge summary from the hospital and a police report of his mother’s death, “Both of which indicated suicidal ideation,” O’Keefe’s statement says.

Arthur Hirsch is a freelance correspondent for The New Bedford Light.

New Bedford Light reporter Eleonora Bianchi contributed to this story.