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The death by suicide of the chief defendant in an outrageous child-sex-trafficking case is an unfathomable worst-case scenario.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr promised an investigation that will get to the bottom of the facts surrounding the suicide of accused sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Well, good luck to him. He’ll need it. There are going to be a lot of people who have a strong incentive not to be cooperative or truthful.

Here’s the question: How could this happen?

Epstein was a high-value, high-profile inmate, the key figure in a tawdry child-sex-trafficking investigation whose tentacles spread to high-profile places and individuals. Further, he previously tried to commit suicide at the Manhattan Correctional Center, where he was being held prior to trial.

Yes, he somehow managed to hang himself in his jail cell, using a bedsheet that never should have been issued to him and out of sight of correctional officers, who were supposed to check on his welfare at least every 30 minutes.

It’s no surprise that Epstein might have wanted to take his own life. After all, he was a billionaire used to a life of unimaginable luxury. The guy even owned his own island.

Stuck in a jail cell for the foreseeable future and seeing his options limited, suicide was a viable choice.

At the same time, he was not without a legal defense that might have spared him trial.

After all, he negotiated a plea agreement (that’s another scandal) in 2006 to sex charges that his lawyers claimed barred his recent indictment. It was a colorable argument, one the trial judge said he anticipated having to address in the pre-trial process.

Why not stick around to see how that goes before pulling the plug?

The facts of what happened here surely are damning. So is the timing.

Epstein committed suicide shortly after civil-case documents linked his criminal behavior to a number of high-profile individuals, including a former U.S. senator and governor.

Circumstances like that inevitably lead to wild conspiracy theories about what really happened and who’s responsible. That’s why the internet is swirling with incredible stories, including one that claims Epstein isn’t really dead and that he in fact escaped.

New York City’s medical examiner should put an end to that tale. But others will take their place.

Barr hinted that one problem is that the New York jail where Epstein was held is a dysfunctional operation that has too many responsibilities and not enough trained personnel to address them.

“We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and that demand a thorough investigation,” he said.

Barr also warned those who may have been complicit in Epstein’s illegal activities that his death will not let them off the legal hook.

“Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice, and we will ensure they get it,” he said.

Saying that is one thing. Fulfilling the pledge is quite another.

There’s no question that a wide variety of people assisted in Epstein’s illegal activities and others — his friends and associates, many of them prominent — partook of his entertainment.

That fact alone should have guaranteed that Epstein received extra-special scrutiny while held in the jail in Lower Manhattan. That he didn’t get it and, as a consequence, managed to kill himself is just the first of a series of matters that requires thorough scrutiny.