Sawyer

NEW BRAUNFELS — Wanted in Comal County, a former New Braunfels resident hanged himself in a Salem, Mass., holding cell Tuesday.

Harland Littlefield Sawyer, 40, was found hanged in a holding cell for Salem District Court around 2:30 p.m.

He apparently used his own pants to complete the suicide.

Sawyer had been jailed on a defaulted 3-year-old larceny charge out of Massachusetts and had pleaded guilty and received a year’s probation when the Texas warrant came up, said his defense attorney, John P. Morris of Salem.

“He was on default ... He took responsibility for that (Tuesday), and when they were clearing him to be released, they found the warrant in Texas,” Morris said.

Sawyer had been brought to Salem District Court on Tuesday to answer to a larceny charge stemming from the theft of $1,283 from Gibbs gas station in downtown Danvers, where he briefly worked in 2006.

A police report said Sawyer was stealing cash by writing in sale amounts for less than the actual gas sold and pocketing the difference — amounts that did not match the amounts recorded by gas pumps.

Sawyer was convicted in Comal County of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was on eight years of probation, which he had allegedly violated.

According to the numbers, Harley Sawyer was in trouble for much of his life. A 2006 Danvers, Mass. police report shows he had a lengthy criminal record, including at least 60 entries for charges such as breaking and entering, larceny, and receiving stolen property.

By the time 2007 rolled around, he was in Texas — and in more trouble. According to Comal County jail records, he was jailed four times in 2007 on charges that ranged from assault causing bodily injury-family violence and terroristic threat of family/household to public intoxication.

In January 2008, and twice in 2009, he was jailed on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The last time he was jailed for several months here, beginning in October 2009, included an “assault by contact/family violence” and making a false report to a police officer.

He returned to Massachusetts earlier this year, where he was living in Peabody. Sawyer had been in default in the Danvers case for three years when he was arrested in September. He again defaulted in November but was subsequently arrested by Woburn police in an unrelated receiving stolen property case.

Morris was going to represent Sawyer on the fugitive warrant.

Sawyer had discussed his options and whether he wanted to waive rendition to Texas or stay in jail and fight his return, Morris said.

“I’ll just go to Texas,” Morris said Sawyer told him.

Sawyer was supporting two children and was concerned about “losing everything,” including his job as a finish carpenter and his apartment, Morris said.

The Somerville, Mass. native told Morris on Tuesday to call his mother and tell her what was happening. Morris said he would do that and then return to go over paperwork after lunch.

When Morris returned to the jail, he heard his client had hanged himself.

Did the attorney see it coming?

“Not at all ... Nothing raised a flag to me,” Morris said.

“He was bummed that he was going to be going back to Texas to answer for whatever it was down there,” Morris said, concerned at how his client would be remembered.

“In reality, he was a regular guy that had some issues, I guess,” he said. “He was trying to live a life and be a productive member of society.”

Harley L. Sawyer, 40, was pronounced dead at Salem Hospital at 2:36 p.m., said Steve O’Connell, a spokesman for Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

Foul play is not suspected, authorities said.

Editor’s note: Julie Manganis of The Salem News contributed to this article. 

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