The 16-year-old transgender boy who hanged himself at the Long Creek Youth Development Center last year wrote in a suicide note that he was distraught over being separated from a romantic partner, investigators for the Maine Attorney General’s Office found.

Charles Maisie Knowles of Vassalboro, a transgender boy who was housed in the girl’s unit of the secure youth facility while awaiting trial on a felony arson charge, hanged himself Oct. 29 while he was on suicide watch. He succumbed to his injuries Nov. 1.

“Maisie’s own suicide note indicated a desire to no longer live without a particular romantic interest, an older individual from Maisie’s home community,” Attorney General Janet Mills wrote in a letter to the Maine Department of Corrections. “In addition, the Department of Corrections undertook an exhaustive operational review and other inquiries as a result of Maisie’s death.”

Knowles, who was transgender and had been going by the name Charlie, is referred to throughout the letter as Maisie, his legal name.

The investigation officially concluded Jan. 31 when, in the letter to Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick, Mills confirmed that Knowles died of suicide by hanging and affirmed that the circumstances were not suspicious.

Citing a motive for suicide is unusual, as Mills pointed out in a footnote in the letter:

“While it is not in the purview of this office to identify the motive for the suicide, we found no evidence that suggested bullying or other mistreatment of Maisie contributed to her decision to take her own life,” Mills wrote.

When reached Monday afternoon, Fitzpatrick declined to describe the results of a policy review to determine whether best practices and procedures were followed during the response to Knowles’ suicide.

“I’d have to ask the Attorney General’s Office to answer that,” said Fitzpatrick, a trained clinician, who deferred to legal experts on questions of law.

He did not know whether the policy review report is a public document, but said his agency is committed to transparency as long as the law does not prevent him from releasing information because of privacy or other concerns.

Fitzpatrick said the department had also hired Lindsay Hayes, a Massachusetts-based consultant, to review Long Creek’s suicide policy. A report by Hayes is expected to be returned in four to six weeks. Whether that document would become public also was not clear.

“We’re about getting better at what we do,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think we work really hard at it.”

State law mandates that Mills’ office conduct an investigation into any death that occurs when the person is in state custody.

Knowles’ death was the first in decades at the South Portland facility, and drew intense scrutiny from outside organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and mental health experts.

Knowles’ mother, Michelle, had said previously that she believed her child languished while he awaited trial without sufficient mental health treatment for his well-established and heavily documented diagnoses, and that she begged the state to treat Charles’ condition more seriously. Because of Knowles’ temporary status as a detainee, he was not afforded the same level of mental health treatment as full-time committed residents, Michelle Knowles has said.

The Department of Corrections has said that medical care is available around the clock at Long Creek, and that both short-term detainees and long-term residents have the same access to mental health screenings, medication and counseling.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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