The 24-year-old Sascha Schmidt was with 26-year-old mother Caterina Remhof when the pair left the three young children in a pizzeria in the town of Aosta last Sunday. The couple said they were stepping out for a cigarette, then did not return to the restaurant.
“He tried to hang himself with his belt in the jail,” a police spokesman told Bild.
The pair's disappearance and abandonment of the children lead to a nationwide manhunt in Italy. The pair were found about 10 kilometers away in a forest and arrested on Thursday.
The Siegen district prosecutor's office confirmed Thursday that the 24-year-old Schmidt was a fugitive from justice and is supposed to be serving a long sentence for blackmail. He did not return from a two-day parole from prison in early April, authorities said.
He is not the father of the children - an infant, a two-year-old and a four-year-old. The children were returned to their home in Sauerland on Friday by German social workers.
The children are “doing well, for their protection they've been taken to a secret location,” Hans-Werner Voss, a county spokesman in Germany, said.
Italian media reports have said that the couple had financial problems, drug issues and may have been contemplating suicide.