Only a third of American voters believe the official explanation presented by authorities that Jeffrey Epstein, the well-connected financier accused of running a pedophile sex ring, killed himself.
Epstein was in a Manhattan jail awaiting trial on child sex trafficking charges when he was found dead in his cell on Aug. 10. His death was ruled a suicide by hanging by the New York City Medical Examiner’s office.
But 34 percent of voters believe he was murdered, according to an Emerson poll, while 33 percent believe he committed suicide, and 32 percent are unsure.
The poll was conducted among more than 1,400 registered voters between Aug. 24 and 26.
Speculation about Epstein’s death has been widespread, with one of the most popular theories being that he was killed at the behest of some of the powerful figures named by documents and victims of his alleged schemes.
Fueling the debate were a number of irregularities surrounding his death: He was taken off suicide watch about two weeks before the day he died; guards who were supposed to check cells every 30 minutes reportedly failed to do so the night of his death and were suspected of falsifying logs to cover it up; and his hyoid neck bone was reportedly broken, an injury more associated with homicidal strangulation than suicidal hanging.
Since then, more irregularities have emerged. The footage from at least one of the cameras from outside Epstein’s cell was reported on Aug. 27 to be unusable. On Aug. 29, it was reported that two cameras that had view of Epstein’s cell were malfunctioning the night of his death and taken by the FBI for a forensic examination.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said on Aug. 10 that both the FBI and the Department of Justice’s inspector general were opening investigations into Epstein’s death.
A number of women who said they were abused by Epstein testified in court, alleging the convicted sex offender lured them into a large sex trafficking scheme that allegedly included Prince Andrew, modeling executive Jean Luc Brunel, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Hyatt Hotels executive Chairman Thomas Pritzker, and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.
Everyone named in court documents or by accusers has denied the accusations.
A day before Epstein’s apparent suicide, a federal appeals court released nearly 2,000 pages of documents relating to Epstein and his former girlfriend, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell.
According to the documents, former President Bill Clinton had visited Epstein’s private island located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which prosecutors believed was his “primary residence” in the United States.
One of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, said that she flew to the island with Epstein when she was 17 and that, while she was there, Maxwell told her that she had picked Clinton up in a “black helicopter that Jeffrey bought her.”
Giuffre also confirmed that she flew on Epstein’s plane while Clinton was on board and said that Secret Service agents were on the plane but were “not where we were eating.” She didn’t allege that Clinton engaged in sexual conduct with her or anyone else. In a July statement, Clinton denied ever visiting the island.
The case against Epstein was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman on Aug. 29, two days after he allowed a hearing where sixteen women testified in person on their allegations against Epstein. Lawyers also read statements from seven other women who couldn’t, or didn’t want to speak publicly.
The criminal investigation into sex trafficking and conspiracy accusations against Epstein will continue, according to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.
Bowen Xiao, Jack Phillips, and Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.