Cops Investigate Bizarre Suicide Attempt

Suicidal brothers drive off cliff, stab themselves with glass.


June 10, 2008— -- When two brothers drove off a 40-foot cliff in a suicide attempt, they tried to finish the job by stabbing themselves with shards of broken window glass and flinging blood to fend off the rescue workers trying to save them, authorities said.

Earl Neale, 42, drove himself and his brother, Vern Neale, 51, off the side of a steep and winding road in Salt Lake County, Utah, Saturday night, police said.

"After they realized they had survived, they started taking glass from the shattered windshield, and one started cutting his neck and the other slashing his wrists. They were flinging their blood at the deputies who were trying to save them," said Detective Shane Manwaring, of the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office.

The men were driving a white Pontiac Grand Prix, which was found 40 feet from the road, flipped over on its roof when police responded.

Firefighters were called to cut the brothers from the wreckage in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

"One of the brothers became compliant and exited the vehicle after firefighters cut him out. The other became hostile, and deputies used a Taser to place him in custody."

Manwarning said the men were using "illegal narcotics" at home in Midvale, Utah. "They were using drugs and started hearing voices, when they decided to take a drive up to the canyon and commit suicide," he said.

"According to their statements it sounds like they were trying to kill themselves to stop hearing the voices, more than the voices were telling them to kill themselves," he said.

The detective described the road as "very steep and very windy that runs along the edge of the valley. It is real easy to find an area with a 50 foot drop."

Earlier in the week, another person attempted suicide nearby, by driving a car off the road but also failed in his attempt.

Reached by ABC News in his hospital room at the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, Vern Neale described himself as "tired and sore."

The older of the two men said his brother believed he was "being followed," and that both men were using cocaine before deciding to kill themselves.

Vern Neale said it was his brother at the wheel of the Grand Prix owned by their mother, with whom Earl lives.

Neale said he had had attempted suicide three or four times in the past, but it was his brother's idea to drive the car off the road Saturday.

"It was his idea. We both decided we needed to die. I'm suicidal anyway, so I went along with it. I've tried to commit suicide three or four times, but this was the first time we tried together."

"When the cops came I was I trying to cut my jugular. We both felt like life was over. We were both ready to die."

Vern's ex-wife, Patty Neale, told ABC News that he and his brother had a history of mental illness.

"There is a long family history of mental illness. Vern was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and manic depression many years ago. Both of them have recently gotten back into drugs," she said.

Patty Neale said her husband had been in and out of hospitals for years, and "at this point he needs more help than he's ever been given."

She said he had attempted suicide four times in the 23 years they were married and doctors told her that they could not commit him for more than 72 hours.

Three times he tried to kill himself by taking pills, she said, and once by sitting in a run car left in the garage.

She said he had been on disability for the past four years and had been treated with electroshock therapy.

The brothers had worked in the family's poultry business, which recently closed following the death of their father. According to Patty Neale, that event sent the men into a "tailspin" of depression and drug use.

Vern said he was unemployed. A toy business is listed at the same address as Earl's home, but the number was disconnected.

Earl Neale was taken to a different hospital than his brother -- the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City. Earl Neale's name was listed in the patient directory when contacted by ABC News, but a nurse in that unit said he had already been discharged.

The hospital would not confirm whether he remained a patient but said a patient who attempts suicide can remain committed for as long his physicians deems necessary.

"It is determined on a case by case basis," said Ryann Rasmussen, a hospital spokesperson. "If someone is determined to be a threat to their self or to others and is committed to the psychiatric unit, from that day forward his doctors will evaluate the situation every day. It could be a few days, it could be a few weeks."

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