Dolly and Justin Bucek sit side-by-side, smiling for the camera.

Ex-wife questions death of Martin Bucek, Allegheny County Jail resident with psychiatric disability

By Brittany Hailer

When Allegheny County police officers knocked on Dolly Bucek’s door on July 3, they brought news of Martin Bucek, the ex-husband she hadn’t heard from in months.

“‘Martin has died in the jail.’ That’s what they told me. [Guards] were doing checks and that’s how they found him,” Dolly Bucek said.

She didn’t know that Martin Bucek had been arrested 10 days earlier, charged with aggravated assault and taken to the Allegheny County Jail following an incident in the mental health emergency department at St. Clair Hospital.

According to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office, Martin Bucek was found unresponsive in his cell at 5:18 p.m. on July 3. He was then transferred to UPMC Mercy Hospital, which the medical examiner lists as his place of death at 5:58 p.m. that same day.

But there appears to be a discrepancy about exactly where Martin Bucek died.

In a July 7 email to the Jail Oversight Board, President Judge Kimberly Berkeley Clark, who serves as chair of the board wrote, “A resident was found unresponsive in his cell and paramedics were called. Both staff and paramedics performed CPR without success.”

The exact location is one of many questions that Dolly Bucek has about her ex-husband’s death.

“The police told me he died at the Allegheny County Jail. Not Mercy Hospital,” said Dolly Bucek.

She doesn’t know how her ex-husband died and won’t likely know for some time. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner told her it could take months for Martin Bucek’s toxicology results to come back.

Dolly Bucek said the Allegheny County police told her that a nurse “worked on him a while” and dislodged a large ball of food from his windpipe. But she doesn’t know if that contributed to his cause of death.

And she questions whether the system failed a man with severe mental illness.

Martin Bucek, sporting a striped polo shirt and dark mustache, smiles for a photo, his arms crossed casually in front. (Photo courtesy of Dolly Bucek)
Martin Bucek (Photo courtesy of Dolly Bucek)

Martin Bucek suffered from bipolar disorder, his ex-wife said. Since 2005, he had experienced peaks and valleys—popping back up to call Dolly Bucek and inquire about their son Justin Bucek, 30, who has spina bifida—but then disappearing again when he’d stop taking his medication. He changed phone numbers often because he had trouble keeping up with bills. When he was stabilized and medicated he would send gifts to his son.

When he was healthy, Dolly Bucek described him as “kind and generous,” with a “dad sense of humor.”
“My father loved me,” Justin said, “But he had a hard time expressing it.”

“I know he loved me, too, in his own way. He just didn’t know how to show it. He really suffered,” said Dolly Bucek.

Dolly Bucek said the police told her that Martin Bucek, who lived in Crafton, had slit his wrists in a suicide attempt and was taken to St. Clair Hospital on June 23. Dolly Bucek does not know how Martin Bucek was transported or arrived at the hospital located in Mt. Lebanon.

There, in the hospital’s mental health emergency room, he grabbed a nurse’s shoulders, according to the narrative in an arrest affidavit filed in court. According to the affidavit, the nurse was able to push Martin Bucek against a wall, but “Bucek repeatedly tried to grab her at the throat but was unsuccessful.”

Martin Bucek’s arrest was made by Officer Michael Carlisle, a member of the private St. Clair Hospital police department. The arrest came without issue after Martin Bucek had been tied in four-point restraints in a bed, per the affidavit. At the time of the report, the nurse who Martin Bucek is accused of attacking requested the filing of charges against Martin Bucek; Carlisle wrote that he requested one charge of aggravated assault on the nurse’s behalf.

Court records indicate that, in addition to aggravated assault, he was also charged with disorderly conduct and harassment.

“Why did they arrest him?” Justin Bucek asked. “He needed treatment.” Justin Bucek also wants to know why no one from the ACJ administration has called or provided information to the family.

St. Clair Hospital Vice President of Marketing, Communication and Advocacy, Lindsay Meucci, declined to comment for this story. County Spokesperson Amie Downs has not responded to requests for comment.

Martin Bucek’s bond was originally set at $5,000, which he was initially unable to post. Court records indicate his bail was later denied.

“He was suicidal,” Dolly Bucek said. ”He’d slit his wrists and he must have been off his meds. He never should have been sent to that jail. He should have been kept at a hospital or mental health facility … I will not give up until I find answers. I am going to fight for all the other families. They’re human beings and the jail administration needs to know that.”

Dolly and Justin Bucek will be in attendance at a vigil at 6:30 p.m. today outside the main entrance at the Allegheny County Jail. The vigil, organized by a collection of organizations and activists, is to honor Martin Bucek and others who have died while incarcerated at the Allegheny County Jail, according to organizers

Brittany Hailer can be reached at