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‘You could tell he was going through a lot’: Friend of Eric Maes concerned about his emotional state before arrest

Eric Maes died Friday, according to records from the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office, nearly a week after he attempted suicide in jail.

PEORIA, Ariz. — Eric Maes, the man accused of trying to kidnap his son and admitting to intentionally running over the boy’s mother, has died.

Maes died Friday, according to records from the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office, nearly a week after he attempted suicide in jail.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office dropped the charges against Maes last week to allow his family to make medical decisions for him.

Friend: Facebook posts show Maes struggling before arrest

A friend of Eric Maes said they were concerned that warning signs of Maes’ mental health were visible on social media before Maes was arrested on Feb. 10.

“He was asking for help. He was just a lost person. He was having a lot of issues in his life,” Maes’ friend said. “You could tell he was going through a lot mentally.”

The friend asked to stay anonymous, but provided 12 News screenshots of some of Maes’ Facebook posts.

This friend pointed to posts from Jan. 30, 11 days before Maes allegedly kidnapped his son and killed the boy’s mother, Brittany Martie.

The posts read: “Everyone can thank Brittany for what I’m going to do.” Another from the same day reads: “Just one request! Make sure Abel has a good safe place to live.” The third the friend shared reads: “Goodbye :’(”

The friend left questioning Maes’ mental health and how much he was being watched over before his suicide attempt.

“How was he able to do this to himself?” The friend said.

The friend upset with the reality now that 10-month-old Abel will now grow up without either of his parents.

“This is something that’s tragic for everyone involved,” the friend said.

Expert: Suicide is ‘high’ in jails

Joel Dvoskin, a psychologist with The University of Arizona, has studied suicide in jails and prisons for several years.

“The prevalence of suicide in jail is high,” Dvoskin said.

Maes was arrested by Phoenix Police and transferred to Peoria Police custody and booked into jail on Feb. 10. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said Maes was placed in the Fourth Avenue Jail.

Three days later, on Saturday, the sheriff's office said Maes tried to kill himself while alone in his cell.

Dvoskin said most jail suicides happen in the first 72 hours an inmate is in jail.

“Often when they first go to jail, they don’t know what their immediate or long-term future is going to be,” Dvoskin said. “They don’t know what’s going to happen to them, they don’t know whether they’re safe at the jail.”

Per MCSO policies, a member of Correctional Health Services does physically and mentally check out every person that comes into the jail.

A spokesperson for CHS said they don’t release personal health information when 12 News asked about Maes mental state at the jail.

However, Dvoskin said it’s difficult to catch everyone who may be at risk for suicide.

“You mainly have to rely on what people tell you,” Dvoskin said.

12 News has asked MCSO said if Maes was on suicide watch or if he made any suicidal comments before he tried to kill himself, but we have not received answers to those questions.

MCSO did tell 12 News the incident with Maes is under investigation by Jail Crime Detectives and MCSO’s Professional Standards Bureau will review it as well.

Dvoskin said such investigations should determine more about how procedures in the jail were followed.  

“Even the best run jails in America have lost people to suicide so the fact that somebody died at their own hand doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone did anything wrong,” Dvoskin said.