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Medical examiner rules state employee death a suicide, but questions remain

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Medical examiner rules state employee death a suicide, but questions remain

Feb 27, 2024 | 8:56 pm ET
By Bryan P. Sears
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Medical examiner rules state employee death a suicide, but questions remain
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The Attman-Glazer building at 45 Calvert Street in Annapolis is home to a number of state government offices including the Department of Budget and Management. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

A state employee found dead in an Annapolis office building in early February took her own life, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The death has left lingering questions for members of Janai White’s family.

White, 36, was found in a stairwell of the Attman-Glazer building in Annapolis on Feb. 9 sometime around noon. An obituary for White notes that she died a day earlier but was not found for nearly a day.

At some point on Feb. 8, White entered a stairwell in the building and hanged herself, according to the medical examiner.

Chase Cook, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said the medical examiner determined White asphyxiated as the result of hanging. Her death was ruled a suicide.

White worked for the last seven months as an agency account executive in the procurement compliance office of the Department of General Services.

The office building at 45 Calvert Street where she died is about three blocks from the Maryland State House. It is home to the Maryland Office of Budget and Management, including the office suite used by Budget Secretary Helene Grady.

Also in the building is the Department of Service and Civic Innovation, the agency created last year by Gov. Wes Moore (D) to lead his signature service program; the offices of the Maryland State Ethics Commission; Assessment and Taxation for Anne Arundel County; and the Public Employee Relations Board. More than a dozen state agencies also have satellite or legislative offices in the basement of the building.

It is also across the street from Anne Arundel County government offices.

Members of White’s family have not responded to requests for comment.

“We are devastated by such a tragic loss,” read a fundraising post purportedly published last week by family members. The post contained details of the death not previously published but now confirmed by the medical examiner.

“The family has been provided with very little information and has not been able to retrieve any of her belongings,” the post continues. “The family is willing to accept her death as a suicide if this is the manner in which she passed. However, we will not and cannot accept that there are too many unanswered questions that remain.”

Key among those questions is how White could have remained undiscovered in the stairwell for as long as 20 hours, according to the post.

The fundraising post said money is being sought to pay for an independent autopsy.

State officials have repeatedly declined to answer key questions about White’s death including how long she was in the stairwell before being found by another state employee.

Johnathan Medlock, a spokesperson for the Department of General Services, was not available for comment late Tuesday.

Medlock has declined to answer any questions about the circumstances of the death or how it might have occurred hidden from security or other employees. The agency also has not said if the death is triggering a review of security measures and procedures to prevent other incidents.

State police publicly identified White in a brief statement released two weeks after her body was found. A state police spokesperson said foul play was not suspected but declined to provide additional details citing an ongoing investigation.

Police and emergency medical services were called to the office building at midday on Feb. 9. In an email, Ron Snyder, a spokesperson for Maryland State Police, confirmed that White’s body was found in the stairwell by a state employee.

In an email sent to Department of General Services employees on the day White was found, Secretary Atif Chaudhry announced the death of an unnamed state worker.

“It is with a heavy heart that we share this news,” Chaudhry wrote. “As any information pertinent to you all becomes available, we will be sure to share it.”

So far, there has been no explanation of the time lag between White’s death and the discovery of her body.

Snyder, in an email to Maryland Matters, confirmed the presence of at least one security camera in the stairway.

It is not known if the camera was operational at the time of White’s death.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, you can reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 or by chat here