Since his brother Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in a New York federal jail in August, Mark Epstein has been worried that his own life, and the lives of other people, may be in danger because federal authorities, believing it a suicide, have not fully investigated the circumstances of the sex trafficker’s death.
Now a private forensic pathologist hired by Mark Epstein to monitor his brother’s autopsy has offered an opinion that bolsters what conspiracy theorists have suggested for months: that the available evidence does not support the finding that Jeffrey Epstein killed himself.
Dr. Michael Baden, one of the world’s leading forensic pathologists, viewed Jeffrey Epstein’s body and was present at the autopsy — held Aug. 11, the day after Epstein was found dead at the notorious Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan.
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Baden described Epstein’s jail cell, the ligature he allegedly used to hang himself, and his own suspicions that federal authorities have not conducted a thorough probe into Epstein’s cause and manner of death.
“They rushed the body out of the jail, which they shouldn’t do because that destroys the evidence,’’ Baden told the Herald.
“The brother, Mark, doesn’t think it was suicide — he is concerned it might be murder. It’s 80 days now and if, in fact, it is a homicide, other people might be in jeopardy,’’ Baden said.
Baden’s observations, first aired in an interview on “Fox & Friends” Wednesday, include that Epstein suffered multiple fractures in his neck — injuries he said are more consistent with strangulation than suicide by hanging. Epstein, who was found dead Aug. 10, had three fractures on the left and right sides of his larynx, Baden said.
He told the Herald that it is rare for any bones to be broken in a hanging, let alone for multiple bones to be fractured.
“Those fractures are extremely unusual in suicidal hangings and could occur much more commonly in homicidal strangulation,” said Baden, who added that there were hemorrhages in Epstein’s eyes that are also more common in strangulation than in hangings.
His findings will likely fuel online conspiracy theories that have suggested, with no evidence, that Epstein was killed to keep him from incriminating other wealthy and powerful men involved in his sex trafficking crimes.
On the day before his body was discovered, more than 2,000 pages of court documents were unsealed, revealing that one of Epstein’s young victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, had provided sworn testimony in a 2016 court case that Epstein directed her to have sex with a number of men who were prominent figures in politics, finance, science, academics and philanthropy.
Those men have all denied her allegations. But the timing of Epstein’s death, coming just weeks after federal authorities claimed he had previously tried to kill himself at the jail, raised further questions as to why Epstein — one of the most high-profile inmates imaginable — wasn’t being monitored more closely.
Baden’s opinion contradicted New York City Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson, who ruled Epstein’s cause of death to be a suicide by hanging.
Sampson, in a statement Wednesday, said she is confident in her conclusion that Epstein hanged himself.
“Our investigation concluded that the cause of Mr. Epstein’s death was hanging and the manner of death was suicide. We stand by that determination. We continue to share information around the medical investigation with Mr. Epstein’s family, their representatives, and their pathology consultant. The original medical investigation was thorough and complete. There is no reason for a second medical investigation by our office.”
Baden told the Herald that the pathologist who actually conducted the autopsy, Dr. Kristin Roman, also had trouble determining that Epstein hanged himself, and initially determined that the manner of death was “pending.’’
“The autopsy did not support suicide,’’ Baden said. “That’s what she put down. Then Dr. Sampson changed it a week later, manner of death to suicide. The brother has been trying to find out why that changed. … What was the evidence?”
Sampson has not released the full autopsy report.
Baden acknowledged that there could be additional evidence that led to Sampson’s conclusion that she has not shared with him or Epstein’s brother.
Baden, 85, who once led the New York City Medical Examiner’s office, has participated in some of the country’s most infamous death investigations, including the congressional inquiry into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
For nearly five decades, Baden has also been a member of a New York state commission that reviews deaths in the state’s prisons, and knows how crime scenes within the isolation of prisons can be tainted and even staged.
“There’s always concern that if the only reporting you are getting is from those involved in the care of that inmate that it may be biased,’’ Baden said.
In this case, Baden said he saw a photograph of Epstein’s cell after his body was removed. It showed a ligature fashioned from an orange bed sheet on the floor of the cell. Baden said he was told — but shown no written report — that a corrections officer found Epstein’s body, on his knees, with the orange ligature around his neck, tied to the top bunk in his cell.
He pointed out that authorities have only the word of the people in the jail as to what happened, and his impression is that the officers were not forthcoming.
“He was stone-cold dead when they found him,’’ Baden said. “He had been dead for three hours. Rigor mortis set in, and it was apparent he was dead, yet they called EMS and didn’t photograph how the body was found.’’
Baden said Sampson’s conclusion sends a message that there is no need to look further into how Epstein died.
Mark Epstein, Epstein’s only sibling and his next of kin, has been frustrated that he has not been able to obtain the EMS report or the hospital report, Baden said.
“I’d like additional information. Whose DNA is on the ligature? Was the FBI able to get any information from the jail cell’s video and hall video? Did they find it shows him hanging himself up or someone unauthorized went into the cell from the hallway? Did the FBI interview any of the inmates? Did they interview any of the guards who were allegedly asleep?’’
Baden said that these are all questions that should be answered before concluding that Epstein committed suicide. And he said questions about the federal facility’s apparent security lapses should also be a factor to explore.
Following the autopsy, it was revealed that the two prison officers who were assigned to monitor Epstein at 30-minute intervals fell asleep and that at least some of the security cameras in the wing were not operating.
Baden, who has conducted more than 20,000 autopsies, said that in 50 years he has never had a prison death where two corrections officers fell asleep, nor has he ever had a case where three bones were broken in an alleged suicide by hanging.
He said that in hangings most deaths occur as a result of compression or obstruction of the carotid arteries in the neck, which would restrict blood flow to the brain, causing death. The fact that Epstein suffered fractures suggests that force was used, he said.
Epstein, 66, was arrested in July, more than 10 years after the top federal prosecutor in South Florida, Alexander Acosta, signed off on a controversial non-prosecution agreement despite having nearly three dozen underage victims who said they were sexually abused by the multimillionaire, many of them at his waterfront estate in Palm Beach. He also had homes in Manhattan, the Virgin Islands, Paris and New Mexico.
In conjunction with the 2008 non-prosecution deal, Epstein pleaded guilty to minor prostitution charges in state court and served roughly a year in the Palm Beach County stockade, enjoying liberal work release privileges.
Epstein was rearrested by federal prosecutors in New York in July, following publication of a Miami Herald investigation “Perversion of Justice,’’ which re-examined the case and raised serious questions about whether the scope of Epstein’s crimes was covered up by prosecutors or whether the rich and powerful men in his social circle may have exerted undue influence on the case.
Baden said Mark Epstein spoke by phone with his brother in the days before his death, and that Epstein’s lawyers saw him the day before, reporting him to be in good spirits. Epstein did make changes to his will days before his death, but Baden said those changes were “minor’’ and not cause to think that Epstein had intended to harm himself.
Dr. Ziv Cohen, a forensic psychiatrist and assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, said he doesn’t think Baden’s findings are conclusive and suggested a psychological autopsy involving interviews with Epstein’s friends, family, corrections officers and lawyers to zero in on his frame of mind in the days before his death.
Baden said that while Mark Epstein had no involvement in or knowledge about his brother’s activities, he knew from news reports that his brother “knew a lot of people that would be better off if he passed away.’’
Mark Epstein, 65, grew up with his brother in Brooklyn and, after a stint as a silk screener, turned to real estate, where he made his own fortune. He is the only known heir to an estate estimated at more than $500 million.
“Mark just wants a full investigation, not something that was changed in five or six days from a pending to a closed suicide,’’ Baden said.
Miami Herald staff writer Romy Ellenbogen contributed.