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Jack Henry Abbott Commits Suicide

Jack Henry Abbott, who turned his letters from prison to author Norman Mailer into the best-selling book "In the Belly of the Beast," committed suicide in his cell, officials said.

Abbott was found dead Sunday morning in his single cell at Wende Correctional Facility, said Jim Flateau, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections.

He hanged himself with a bed sheet and a shoelace and left a suicide note, Flateau said. Flateau would not disclose the contents of the note.

"His life was tragic from beginning to end," Mailer said in a statement Sunday. I never knew a man who had a worse life."

Abbott, who was 58, gained fame from writing "In the Belly of the Beast," a best seller composed of letters he wrote to Mailer from prison between 1978 and 1981.

During those years, Abbott was behind bars first for bank robbery and then for fatally stabbing another inmate. Mailer supported Abbott's parole, but six weeks after Abbott was released in 1981, he stabbed a 22-year-old aspiring actor outside a New York
City restaurant.

Abbott was sentenced to 15 years to life for manslaughter in the man's death. He was denied parole in August and would not have been eligible again until June 2003.

In 1990, Abbott lost a nearly $7.6 million court judgment to the victim's family, who sued for proceeds from the book.

Abbott was found dead about an hour after a guard had last checked his block. An autopsy is required by state law for an unattended death.

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