Ohio man held in 5 deaths found hanged in cell

Image: Michel Veillettte
Michel Veillettte, accused of fatally stabbing his wife and killing his four children in a house fire, is led into Mason Municipal Court for his preliminary hearing, in this Jan. 22, 2008 file photo. Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel says Veillette was found in his cell Tuesday morning April 15, 2008, after hanging himself. AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A man accused of stabbing his wife to death and killing his four children in a house fire hanged himself in his jail cell early Tuesday, officials said.

Michel Veillette, 34, had pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of aggravated murder and two counts of aggravated arson and was awaiting trial.

A corrections officer found Veillette lying on the floor with a sheet around his neck tied to a towel rack, Sheriff Tom Ariss said. An autopsy showed no injuries other than those consistent with hanging, he said.

His lawyer, Tim McKenna, said he last visited his client on March 26. "He had been progressively more upbeat and he was very interested in defending himself," McKenna said.

Veillette had a strip of photos of his children and would have those photos out when talking about the case, McKenna said. "It's just a very sad ending to a tragic story," McKenna said.

Prosecutors alleged that Veillette stabbed his wife, Nadya Ferrari-Veillette, 33, after they had a fight on Jan. 11. He then set fire to the couple's home in Mason, about 20 miles northeast of Cincinnati, prosecutors said. The children — ages 8, 4 and 2-year-old twins — died of smoke inhalation.

Veillette had told The Cincinnati Enquirer in late January that he killed his wife after she attacked him with a knife and frying pan. He claimed that she set the fire and that he tried to save the children but couldn't.

"Being confident in my case, I would have preferred to have brought him to justice for the deaths of these little children and his wife," said Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel. "He's going to face now justice of another kind."

Ariss said Veillette had been under a suicide watch during his first 10 days in jail. While on such watch, materials that could be used for suicide attempts are kept away from inmates and jailers check on them as frequently as every 10 minutes.

Mental health staff had concluded he could be housed under normal jail conditions, which call for a check within every hour. Ariss said he had seen Veillette last week and there had been no reports of any unusual behavior or comments.