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DEAD – Murder suspect kills himself

HARRIS COUNTY – Accused and self-confessed murderer Ethen Drake, 23, has killed himself by suicide, according to authorities and the victim’s family.

Drake was in Harris County Jail on suicide watch, but apparently he managed to hang himself last Friday, April 4, and was taken to the hospital where he died on Monday, April 7.

Drake was the accused killer of Caroline Sue Stagner, 72, who allegedly entered her house on Clear Lake Road early in the morning on Dec. 13, 2013, with the intent of robbing her.

However, what started as a robbery became a murder by stabbing, perhaps after she awakened and discovered Drake in the house. He then set a fire to conceal the murder, which quickly engulfed most of the house. Stagner’s body was discovered by Highlands firemen as they fought the blaze.

Stagner’s family was informed of the suicide hanging, and also that Drake had confessed to the murder, according to a family spokesperson who spoke to the Star-Courier. Family members stated that they felt the Sheriff’s department had been diligent in their investigation, and conveyed information regularly to the family.

Drake had been arrested in January for the murder, after some of Stagner’s possesions and medicine bottles were found by deputies in a burn pile behind Drake’s parent’s home. In addition, Drake was arrested in Gladewater in January for a similar theft and housefire. It was also learned that as recently as this week, Stagner’s purse was found by children in a drainage ditch on Clear Lake at 7th Street, not far from Stagner’s house and in the vicinity where Drake lived. The children took it to their school, where Stagner’s ID and other papers were discovered.

The Stagner family has mixed feelings about the suicide, it was learned, because the case will never come to trial and some details may never be known. However, in the overall picture, they are relieved at the closure, and also have been reassured by Sheriff’s investigators that Drake acted alone. This is important because the neighborhood has been concerned that others might have been involved, and still would be a threat to residents living nearby. Now the authorities have clearly stated this is not the case, and they can feel safe again.

As a result of this murder, another one nearby on 6th Street, and three others in Highlands during 2013, the community has organized crime watch meetings, and small citizens’ crime watch groups in neighborhoods to help with the patrol and safety of their areas.