A Sayville man charged last week with gouging his grandmother's eyes over his use of her debit card committed suicide in his cell at the Suffolk County jail in Riverhead, a sheriff's department official said.
A guard at the correctional center found Micheal Grief, 30, hanging in his cell shortly before 4 a.m. Friday, said Michael Sharkey, chief deputy sheriff at the Suffolk jail.
Grief was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead and later transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where he was declared dead at 11:12 p.m. Friday.
Grief, who was not on suicide watch at the time, never regained consciousness, Sharkey said.
Jail officials will conduct an internal investigation of Grief's death and report their findings to the New York State Department of Corrections, Sharkey said.
Grief pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday to first-degree assault and two counts of second-degree assault in connection with the attack on his grandmother. He was accused of blinding the 78-year-old woman while in a fit of rage after they argued Feb. 19 about his use of her debit card.
Prosecutors said Grief’s grandmother blamed him for a $1,000 overdraft on her account. During an argument at their home, the woman grew fearful of Grief and left to ask a neighbor for help.
But Grief followed her, authorities said, and outside the neighbor’s house, Grief used his fingers to gouge her eyes. Neighbors called police.
The grandmother was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital, where she underwent an eight-hour eye surgery. She was given a less than 1 percent chance of regaining her vision, prosecutors said.
Grief was held after his arraignment pending payment of a bail of $1 million bond or $500,000 cash. He faced up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the top charge.
In a news release last week, Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini called the case "extremely disturbing" and said Grief showed no remorse when he was told by police of his grandmother's injuries.
“He was very dismissive,” Sini said. “He said, ‘So?’ shrugged his shoulders, and appeared to be apathetic toward the situation.”
Correction: Grief was in a cell at the Suffolk County jail in Riverhead. A previous version of this story gave an incorrect location for the jail.