Television viewers who flip on their TVs when they get up to see if there’s any breaking news, juggled their coffee cups Saturday morning when they saw this astonishing headline:

“Epstein dies of apparent suicide in federal lockup”

Officials said he hanged himself. The cell he was in was a windowless 8-by-8-foot confinement.

The reprehensible, sordid story about extremely wealthy Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-exploitations — often involving girls as young as 14 — has been rattling news reporters’ keyboards for years and still has miles to go.

Earlier, the 66-year-old financier was found unconscious in his Manhattan Correctional Center jail cell on July 23, after a possible suicide attempt. He had bruises around his neck.

The incident prompted his move to a suicide watch unit, people familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal last month.

Epstein was taken off suicide watch before killing himself Saturday, the Associated Press reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

On Saturday, Bureau of Prisons officials ruled Epstein’s death an apparent suicide, saying he was found unconscious in his cell around 6:39 a.m.

Epstein was transported to a hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries and subsequently pronounced dead by hospital staff, according to Fox News.

His death came a day after the release of thousands of documents from a lawsuit filed by a woman who claims he kept her as a sex slave.

Epstein began making pornographic news in 2008 in Florida when he was accused of soliciting an underage girl for sex. The federal investigation was thrown out — leaving Epstein with a wrist-slap sentence that landed him behind bars for just 13 months.

Even while in custody, Epstein was able to leave the jail for 12 hours a day, six days a week, to work in his office in Florida.

The United States prosecutor in Florida who handled the 2008 case was R. Alexander Acosta, who has now been serving as  President Trump’s labor secretary. After the new charges were announced against Epstein in July, Acosta’s work on the earlier case came under intense criticism, and he resigned from the Labor secretary position.

The girls’ abuse was reported to have occurred at both his Upper East Side New York city mansion and his palatial waterfront home in Palm Beach, Fla. between 2002 and 2005.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan last month charged Epstein with sex trafficking of girls as young as 14 and sex trafficking conspiracy. The indictment renewed attention on how he had opulent homes, a private jet and access to elite circles.

The girls were paid hundreds of dollars in cash for the encounters and, once recruited, were asked to return to his homes several times, where they were abused again, the indictment against him said.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, he would have faced up to 45 years in prison.

He had initially sought home detention at the New York mansion while he awaited trial. His lawyers had proposed allowing Epstein to post a substantial bond and stay in his luxurious seven-story townhouse, watched by 24-hour guards, at his expense.

But a federal judge denied the request, concluding that Epstein was a flight risk and citing his “vast wealth,” which prosecutors have placed at more than $500 million.

It can be expected that there will be further action on pending lawsuits and new suits will be filed to try to collect millions of dollars out of his bountiful estate.

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