Serial rapist Selby found hanging from cell window

By Jesse Lewis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Convicted serial rapist James Allen Selby was found dead in his cell yesterday at Pima County Jail, after apparently hanging himself, authorities said.

His death occurred the day he was scheduled to be sentenced for sexually assaulting five Tucson women and a 13-year-old girl between October 2001 and November 2002. One of the women was a UA student at the time. Selby could have faced life in prison.

A corrections officer at the jail found Selby, 38, hanging from the window of his cell by sheets from his bed at 7 a.m. yesterday, said Deputy Dawn Barkman, Pima County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman.

CPR and medical care were immediately initiated and paramedics were called to the scene, according to the Pima County Sheriff's Department press release.

"He was pronounced dead 30 minutes later," Barkman said.

The sheriff's department's Homicide Unit is investigating the incident in order to rule out homicide as the cause.

"They are investigating to ensure it was a suicide," Barkman said.

The sentencing was cancelled when news of Selby's death was received, said David Ricker, community relation coordinator at Pima County Superior Court.

Judge Howard Fell, the judge in Selby's case, is only commenting on the death through Ricker.

He spoke with Ricker yesterday morning when the sentencing was cancelled.

"Suffice it to say, Mr. Selby would have received a sentence that would ensure he never again would endanger this community," Ricker said on Fell's behalf.

Ricker released no specific details on what Selby's sentence would have been, but Micah Schmit, one of the attorneys prosecuting the case, said Selby was likely to receive a sentence of close to 200 years.

"My knee-jerk reaction was relief in the sense that this case won't ever come back," Schmit said. "He won't be able to appeal, won't escape, won't hurt anybody else."

However, Schmit also said that Selby's death meant family members of the victims would be deprived of a sense of closure. "He steals the moment where these folks could see full retribution," Schmit said.

Selby was last seen alive at 6:45 a.m. when the corrections officer made rounds, the press release stated.

Selby had not made any threats of suicide before officers found him, the release stated. He was not on suicide watch.

Selby lived in the cell by himself in a single housing unit of the jail. None of the inmates can see into other cells because they are in individual rooms with concrete walls instead of bars, Barkman said.

Pima County Jail will not face any follow-up action because no wrongdoing was found on the part of the jail, Barkman said.

Initial investigations have indicated all policies and procedures within Pima County Jail were followed appropriately, the press release stated.

Selby was charged with 27 counts of sexual assault, kidnapping, attempted murder and other charges.

Selby was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Colorado Springs, Colo., for raping a 56-year-old woman. Selby was also wanted in Oklahoma, Nevada and San Diego for a series of assaults which were traced to him through DNA samples.