American kills himself in Taiwan courtroom after drug conviction

By Peter Holley

Tyrel Marhanka, who killed himself during the sentencing in Taiwan, was married to a Taiwanese woman and had two children. Photo / Getty
Tyrel Marhanka, who killed himself during the sentencing in Taiwan, was married to a Taiwanese woman and had two children. Photo / Getty

By the time authorities noticed that Tyrel Martin Marhanka had a sharp metal object in his hands, it was too late.

The 41-year-old American - who was sitting in a courtroom in Taiwan during his sentencing on drug possession charges - plunged the object deep into his neck, unleashing a gush of blood, according to the Taipei Times.

Some witnesses identified the object as a pair of scissors, but others said they saw Marhanka using two objects, both metallic. Court officials told the Times that the American separated a pair of scissors into two sharp blades.

The shocking act occurred moments after a judge gave Marhanka a four-year prison sentence for smuggling poppy seeds into the country and growing marijuana, according to the paper.

Marhanka was arrested in April 2015 after police discovered a large stash of illegal drugs at a rented house, which included hundreds of cannabis plants and 10 opium poppies, according to the Times.

He told police the plants were a "hobby" that he intended to use on his own, the paper reported.

Witnesses told the Times that, after the judge read the sentence out loud, Marhanka turned to the interpreter, who informed him of the sentence.

"Four years?" a shocked Marhanka was heard saying.

Witnesses told the paper that the interpreter explained to Marhanka that the sentence could be appealed, but Marhanka said he didn't want to do so.

"I don't want to live anymore," he yelled, before stabbing himself in the neck and severing at least one artery, witnesses said. He was taken to a hospital, but doctors were unable to revive him, according to Agence France-Presse.

"We deeply regret that Tyrel Martin Marhanka killed himself during the sentencing," the court said in a statement. "He was cooperative during the investigation and the trial. His attitude was mild and he did not show any signs that he would commit suicide."

Marhanka was married to a Taiwanese woman and had two children, and they were longtime residents of the island, AFP reported.

Court officials told the Times that they plan to improve security by installing an X-ray machine that will be used to scan people before they enter a building. The court's current facility, AFP reported, lacks adequate space for the equipment.

- Washington Post

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