A 59-year-old man who's been jailed since 2017 on child sex-abuse charges along with two female accomplices appears to have taken his own life while in a Santa Cruz County Jail cell.
Former neurosurgeon James Kohut was arrested in June 2017 on what were initially 11 counts of sexual abuse of a minor, along with Rashel Brandon, a nurse he had worked with at Dominican Hospital, and Emily Stephens. What unfolded in the two years since were revelations of a sordid, 20-year pattern of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse of children, two of whom Kohut had fathered with the two women.
As the Mercury-News reports, Kohut had been on suicide watch following his initial arrest, but he had showed no recent signs of wanting to harm himself — and he resided in a cell by himself. His body was found just as breakfast service was starting on Sunday at 5:45 a.m., and the exact cause of death is still being investigated, per KSBW.
There have been multiple hearings leading up to a trial for Kohut, many of which he had not been attending in person. Though a judge had initially granted bail for Kohut in the weeks after his arrest, he never made bail and has been in custody in Santa Cruz for over 27 months.
Watsonville police say they discovered videos in May 2017, one shot that month and one in January 2017, that depicted all three defendants engaging in sex acts with a three-year-old and a 10-year-old boy. As would later be revealed in court hearings, as the charges against Kohut mounted by the dozens, he and his two girlfriends engaged in group sexual activity with the children, along with a five-year-old girl, and at times the videos only depicted the children engaging in sex with each other.
According to court documents, as reported in the Mercury News last fall, Kohut had advertised online for women he could impregnate and share "taboo families" with. All or most of the sexual abuse allegedly occurred in Kohut's Watsonville home, and never in his medical offices. Kohut lost his license to practice medicine in California on June 1, 2017.
The next hearing in the case was set for this Thursday. Stephens has been charged with 30 counts related to the sex abuse of her own child (fathered by Kohut) as well as others, and Brandon was charged with 29 counts. Their trial was last scheduled for July but has continued to be delayed as the district attorney's office has sought to restore kidnapping charges that a judge dismissed last year.