Bradley C. Scarpi was moved into protective custody at the St. Clair County Jail at his request on Friday. A few hours later, he was found dead hanging in his cell.
St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said Scarpi had been in the jail 19 times before and was considered a "model inmate."
Watson didn't say why Scarpi asked to move into protective custody, where he was in a cell alone.
"He was having some issues," Watson said.
Correctional officers check on inmates every 30 minutes, Watson said, and that was done the night Scarpi died.
Scarpi had never been on suicide watch during his previous stays at the jail and he never told staff that he was suicidal.
"It's hard to stop somebody who has made up their minds to kill themselves," Watson said.
Cindy Files, Scarpi's sister, agreed. She talked to her brother on the phone about 3:30 p.m. Friday. He called to ask her to put money on his commissary account.
"He told me to please do it because he was hungry, then the phone was dead," Files said. "That's the last time I talked to him."
Scarpi, 33, of Belleville, was being held on charges of home invasion and armed robbery in connection with an incident April 9 in the 800 block of South Jackson Street in Belleville.
Scarpi was accused of entering a home, displaying a knife and demanding specific items from the two residents.
"Brad had his demons. He was on drugs," Files said. "But when he wasn't on drugs, he was a really kind-hearted person."
Scarpi's mother and sister died within weeks of each other, Files said. The loss greatly affected Scarpi.
"For a while, he did all right," Files said. "He was working out of town with a roofing company, but then he came back and was hanging out with his old friends ..."
Scarpi is the second suicide in three months at the jail.
In March, Joshua Brandon was found hanging in his cell.
Another man collapsed at the jail earlier this month. Juan M. Sifuentes, 31, of Smithboro, died on May 13 after experiencing shortness of breath. He was arrested by O'Fallon police a week earlier on a retail theft charge.