Linda Tant Miller





Saturday, 19, 2004
By John S.Hausman
Muskegon Chronicle, MI

A 44-year-old Spring Lake man held on drunken driving and weapons charges has hanged himself in the Ottawa County Jail's West Olive facility, according to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department.

Reported dead in his cell Friday was Max Edward Berryhill of 1736 Connie.

Another inmate found Berryhill hanging by a torn sheet and summoned staff around 1:15 p.m., Undersheriff Greg Steigenga said. Jail personnel tried to resuscitate Berryhill, but efforts by jail and medical staff, North Ottawa Ambulance personnel and Olive Township fire-rescue personnel failed to revive him, the undersheriff said.

Steigenga said Berryhill appeared to have a slight pulse but was not breathing by the time staff reached him.

Dr. Stephen Cohle, Kent County's medical examiner, was to do an autopsy this morning at Spectrum Health-Blodgett in Grand Rapids.

Sheriff's detectives led by Lt. Steven Crumb are investigating the death.

Berryhill was not on suicide watch. He was lodged in a two-man cell but had been alone for an estimated 10 minutes -- after his cellmate was allowed to go to a day area -- before another inmate saw him hanging, Steigenga said.

One issue to be investigated is whether Berryhill, who had been in jail since his arrest Monday evening, had given earlier indications of being suicidal.

"There was a sense that he had a desire to hurt himself during the initial contact (with police) ... Just initial comments or observations may have been that he was somewhat despondent at the time of his arrest," Steigenga said.

"These are things that we're looking into," Steigenga said. "We're conducting a very thorough investigation of the entire incident, including all those types of things."

Berryhill was lodged under a $78,000 cash or surety bond set by 58th District Judge Kenneth Post on charges of third-offense drunken driving, carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a firearm while intoxicated, second-offense driving on a suspended license and two probation violations, Steigenga said.

Ottawa County Sheriff's deputies arrested Berryhill after he was spotted early Monday evening in Georgetown Township driving while brandishing a handgun. Deputies found a 40-caliber semiautomatic handgun in his car.

Deputies also learned the gun recently had been fired inside a home.



Jennifer Lynn Sutton, Trangender Prisoner with HIV/hepatitis

"I have full blown AIDS and can catch anything at any time. I don't belong in this institution where I can't get any help. We are treated like animals here and something should be done about it. I hope you can do something because I am dying and I'm suffering very much and my hands are tied and there is nothing I can do about it."

This statement was part of a larger article written by Jennifer (aka Jeffrey) Sutton, a transgender woman prisoner living with HIV and hepatitis C at Corcoran state prison in California back in 1998. Jennifer died early Friday morning, May 3, 2002, of kidney failure. She had tried to access sick call and was feeling ill for a couple of weeks. Corcoran staff did not even try to diagnose her failing kidneys or her rapid deterioration.

Jennifer finally received attention when she collapsed on Thursday night and was rushed out to the hospital but it was too late to save her.

After our last visit with Jennifer in October 2001, the HIV/Hepatitis C in Prison Committee of California Prison Focus wrote to the warden and chief medical officer about her deteriorating condition. The return letter we received was typical of the lies consistently received from the Corcoran prison adminstration. We were assured that Jennifer was receiving excellent care.

I wonder if Warden George Galaza and Chief Physician Nandan Bhatt think Jennifer is still getting good care?

Jennifer was not the only prisoner receiving criminally negligent care at Corcoran. We have always maintained that Corcoran is a punishment prison not a medical care facilty (despite its sparkling new Acute Care Hospital).

Over the past six months, we have learned of two other prisoners living with HIV whose kidneys have failed at Corcoran prison. These two prisoners survived and are currently on kidney dialysis three times a week. We have heard many alarming reports about the state of medical neglect at Corcoran prison.

Last month, the only infectious disease doctor was fired. Now the prisoners in the Chronic Infectious Disease unit cannot even see a specialist for their condition.

The HIV/Hepatitis C in Prison Committee of California Prison Focus sent a letter to California Department of Corrections Director Ed Alameida demanding an immediate investigation into Jennifer's death and into the criminally negligent medical care faced by all prisoners with serious and life-threatening illnesses like HIV and hepatitis C. We ask you to send Director Alameida a letter today supporting our call for an independent investigation of Jennifer (Jeffrey) Sutton's death.

Feel free to send the letter below (you can copy/paste and e-mail it at the link) or write your own:

Date: __________________

Edward Alameida, Director
California Department of Corrections
P.O. Box 942883
Sacramento, CA 94283
Fax No. (916) 322-2877

Dear Director Alameida:

I have recently learned of the death of Jeffrey (Jennifer) Sutton, C-01736, a transgender prisoner with HIV and hepatitis C who died suddenly of kidney failure at California State Prison - Corcoran on May 3, 2002.

Two other prisoners coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C have also suffered kidney failure at this prison since December 2001. I am very concerned about the care and treatment of prisoners with serious and life-threatening diseases like Jeffrey Sutton and demand that you immediately investigate this prisoner's medical treatment and death.

Corcoran prison is well-known around the country for its brutality against prisoners. Just a few years ago, prison guards were indicted for staging gladiator fights during which prisoners were shot and killed in the exercise yard. I am concerned that prisoners with HIV and hepatitis C will not be able to access adequate medical treatment at such a punishment prison as Corcoran.

If Corcoran cannot and will not give these prisoners the care that they need to survive, I urge you to immediately transfer these prisoners to a medical facility that will.


cc: HIV/Hepatitis C in Prison Committee
      California Prison Focus
      2940 16th Street, #307
      San Francisco, CA 94103
      Fax No. (510) 665-1935



Friday, December 29, 2000
SF Chronicle

(12-29) 13:27 PST CORCORAN, Calif. (AP)

-- A man in prison for violating his parole was stabbed to death by at least one fellow inmate, officials said Thursday.

Henry Bernard, 47, was attacked Wednesday in his dormitory at Corcoran State Prison. He died a short time later.

Investigators have identified one suspect whose name is being withheld, said Patrick Hart, a Kings Count prosecutor.

The number of prisoners involved in the stabbing is unknown, and the reason that sparked the dispute has not been identified.

Bernard had been an inmate in the prison's general population for about a month and a half before his death. He was originally sent to prison for drunken driving. He was later released on parole but returned after he was found with drugs, a prison spokesman said.



By RYAN REYNOLDS, Courier & Press staff writer
(812) 464-7686 or

A man serving a 65-year sentence for an Evansville murder hanged himself with a bedsheet in his prison cell at the Pendleton Correctional Facility on Monday.

Earl E. Jolley Jr., 28, was sentenced in July 1996 for the murder of Ruth M. Fulkerson, who was found beaten, choked and stabbed in a North Side rental home that the two shared.

He told police he killed the 50-year-old woman after an argument about his share of the rent, according to court records.

Pam Pattison, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Corrections, said a guard found Jolley after the inmates ate breakfast, around 8 a.m. Monday.

"The death is being investigated by the internal affairs division," Pattison said.

Fulkerson's son, Delray Dobbins of Indianapolis, said the news brought "mixed emotions" to him. "People could see where the victim's family might be glad something like this happened, but I'm really not," Dobbins said. "It's an unfortunate turn of events."

Pattison said staff members are trained to look for signs of an inmate becoming suicidal.

"That's what made this surprising," she said. "There were no warning signs."

Pendleton Correctional Facility Superintendent Charles Miller said there had been "nothing out of the ordinary, and no indication he would want to do this," according to Pattison.

"The superintendent said (Jolley) hadn't been a problem at all," she said.

Jolley had just been transferred on Sept. 19 to Pendleton from the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, where he had been since Dec. 16, 1999.

He had been incarcerated at Pendleton earlier in his sentence, and also spent time at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.

There was nothing abnormal about his frequent moves, Pattison said. It was just a matter of "bed space availability," she said.

Superior Court Judge Robert Pigman was a deputy prosecutor when Jolley's case went to trial.

"It was a heat of the moment kind of thing, a violent killing," said Pigman.

Fulkerson moved to Evansville in September 1995 and began sharing a rental home in the 3500 block of Kensington Avenue with Jolley, then 23.

Her son reported her missing two days before the landlord found her body hidden in an attached garage beneath carpeting and other items, according to court records.

Jolley was arrested the next day in Bicknell, Ind., when police there saw him driving Fulkerson's Jeep. "Afterward, he was pretty cold about it," Pigman remembered.

Jolley confessed to Evansville police. He appealed his conviction to the Indiana Supreme Court, claiming that he asked for an attorney three different times during questioning, after he had waived his Miranda rights.

The court upheld the conviction, saying Jolley's requests were either unclear or not supported by evidence. Dobbins said family members keep Fulkerson in their memory, but have moved on.

"This is a double-edge sword, it really is," Dobbins said. "Obviously, the crime was a very graphic one, but by the same token (Jolley) has deprived his own children of having their father."

In all of my years of prisoner advocacy, I have never had a more nightmarish and haunting night than my visit with women prisoners at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla on Friday, December 15, 2000. Members of the HIV in Prison Committee of California Prison Focus (including myself) witnessed the seventh death of a woman prisoner since November 9.

We undertook this visit to continue our advocacy efforts on behalf of women prisoners with HIV, hepatitis C and other serious illnesses. We visited with a woman who recently suffered a stroke after being forced to take the wrong medications by prison medical staff. We visited with women with hepatitis C who are not receiving any education, care monitoring or treatment for their disease.

We visited with a woman living with HIV who recently survived an attack of AIDS-related pneumonia without receiving any medical treatment from prison staff.

We talked with every woman about the six deaths that occurred since November 9 -- three of the women that died had HIV (and possible hepatitis C co-infection). (And, by the way, the local county coroner has a policy of not doing autopsies on HIV+ women prisoners so we will never know the real cause of medical neglect which precipitated their deaths.)

At about 6:45 p.m., we saw a group of guards and MTAs (Medical Technical Assistants) race to the back room behind the visiting room. While we could see only bits and pieces of what was going on, there was clearly a medical emergency happening. Not surprisingly, six deaths in a month, made medical staff respond quite quickly to this emergency. An IV pole was brought in and MTAs were trying to perform CPR on a yet unidentified prisoner. We could see much of the motion but not the whole picture. Several of the women prisoners in the visiting room were standing on benches near the window so that they could see what was happening. There was a lot of commotion going on. One of the women who had a good view of the back room said that the woman on the floor wasn't breathing anymore.

We knew the woman was dead when guards forced the two women porters in the visiting room to go into the back room and don gowns, masks, goggles, and gloves to clean up the bodily fluids that the woman expelled all over the floor before dying. The guards just stood around without any expression - supervising. The terrified look in the eyes of those two women continues to haunt me. They were porters in the visiting room and never expected to have to clean up vomit, urine and excrement after a woman had died. Are there any international human rights sanctions against this callous abuse of women prisoners?

The death took about 45 minutes, during which time no prisoner was able to move in or out of the visiting room. At least 15-20 women prisoners also witnessed this death. I can only imagine how women inside CCWF are feeling right now ­ seven deaths, who is next.

We are demanding (even louder than before) an independent investigation into these deaths. We have asked Senator Richard Polanco, Chair of the Joint Subcommittee on Prison Construction and Operations to conduct this investigation, and to bring in a panel of doctors and specialists to review these women's medical files. We have also demanded that the MTA system be suspended and competent medical staff be brought in from the public health sector to save the women's lives. This is a life and death situation for the women inside CCWF. If something is not done soon, many more women will die.

The women prisoners I was meeting with have seen a lot of death and dying inside the Central California Women's Facility but even they are deeply affected by the current death toll. These seven deaths come in the wake of the dismissal of the Shumate case (class action litigation challenging medical neglect and abuse at CCWF and another women's prison) and the historical two-day long legislative hearings held in October inside two California women's prisons.

I can only conclude that there is a war going on against our sisters at CCWF and they are losing.

Please call, fax or write to Senator Polanco today. The address is:

Senator Richard Polanco
Chairperson, Joint Committee on Prison Construction and Operations
Room 400 State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 324-6175
Fax: (916) 327-8817

Contact your local human rights organization and ask that they conduct an investigation into the deaths at CCWF.

Share this information with your local media source.

Write to your state and federal representatives. Public exposure is one of the only ways to get the California Department of Corrections to change.

We are working within a coalition of groups to stop the death toll at CCWF. Contact us to get involved and to get on our rapid response list.

We will post events on our web page ( and also keep you informed.

We need to let the women inside know that they are not alone and that we support their right to live and to receive health care.

Judy Greenspan, Chairperson
HIV in Prison Committee
California Prison Focus
2940 l6th Street, #307
San Francisco, CA 94103
phone/fax (510) 665-1935

Published Thursday, Dec. 28, 2000
San Jose Mercury News



CHOWCHILLA (AP) -- A state senator will hold a hearing next month into a rash of deaths at a California women's prison, including three recent deaths for which there have been no explanations.

Prison officials are awaiting toxicology reports in all three deaths, reports which may not be available until mid-January, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Margot Bach said. All three were in relatively good health when they suddenly died.

Pamela Coffey, 46, of Los Angeles, died Dec. 2; Stephanie Hardie, 34, of Pomona, died Dec. 9; and Eva Vallario, 33, of San Diego, died Dec. 15.

Sen. Richard Polanco, D-Los Angeles, has scheduled a Jan. 17 hearing on the deaths.

Kimberly Valazza, 37, of San Diego County, died Tuesday, bringing to 17 the number of deaths this year at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla.

Valazza was terminally ill and was transferred to the prison's hospice Nov. 29 from another prison.

``Her death had been anticipated,'' Bach said.

A medical team from the University of California-Davis is expected to complete its review of the prison's medical care by mid-January, Bach said.

Polanco led an October hearing into allegations of medical neglect in women's prisons. Four advocacy groups called on him to reopen his investigation in the wake of the Chowchilla deaths.

Judy Greenspan of the advocacy group California Prison Focus said Tuesday that she hopes Polanco will conclude that he needs to lead his own independent investigation by sending his top staff into the prison.

Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco, conducted a similar staff investigation into a series of deaths in the early 1990s at the all-male California Medical Facility in Vacaville. Polanco now owes the female inmates no less, Greenspan said.

Doctors Fault Treatment in
Deaths at Chowchilla Prison

Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO (AP) -- Prompt care might have saved two of the three inmates who died at a women's prison in Chowchilla last month, according to doctors whose reviews of the incidents were released Tuesday.

Those reviews also conclude that the deaths were not related.

Officials at the Central California Women's Facility had worried the deaths might have resulted from improper sharing of prescription drugs or some other common cause.

But Dr. Kathleen A. Clanon, a UC San Francisco professor, wrote she could find no "single 'smoking gun' explanation linking these three deaths." Barring a drug found during still-pending toxicology tests, "it is most likely that these tragic and frightening sudden deaths were medically unrelated to one another."

A separate review of the inmates' medical records by four UC Davis doctors also found no link between the deaths.

Clanon reached her conclusions after reviewing medical reports from the incidents. She submitted her comments to a state Legislature committee that held a hearing on the deaths last week. The Associated Press obtained Clanon's report Tuesday.

Relatives and advocacy groups have said the deaths could have been prevented if inmates received better care.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Margot Bach said she had not seen the reports late Tuesday afternoon and no one from the department's medical staff was available for comment.

Seventeen women died last year at the prison, though most were terminally ill and receiving medical care. Three of the deaths were unexpected and, Clanon concluded, might have been prevented.

Pamela Coffey, 46, of Los Angeles, died Dec. 2, becoming the first of the three dead inmates in question. An autopsy found she died of heart problems, but Clanon concluded that, "there were significant problems with Ms. Coffey's medical care that might have contributed to her death."

A medical technical assistant (MTA) who examined Coffey two hours before she died should have sought additional help, Clanon wrote in her review. "Had Ms. Coffey been in the emergency room during the subsequent two hours, it might have been possible to intervene and prevent her collapse," Clanon concluded.

Advocacy groups have been particularly critical of the health screening provided by MTAs -- guards with medical training -- and state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, said she will introduce legislation this year to eliminate the position.

Before Coffey's collapse, doctors should have done a better job checking on a low blood count and an unexplained abdominal mass that prompted Coffey to complain of pain in her side, Clanon wrote.

The UC Davis doctor who reviewed Coffey's file also said her low blood count should have been investigated, but did not fault the MTA's treatment the night of her death.

Stephanie Hardie, 34, of Pomona, who died Dec. 9, should have received better treatment for her previous complaints of chest pain and shortness of breath, Clanon said.

Better treatment might also have saved Eva Vallario, 33, of San Diego, who apparently died after choking on vomit Dec. 15, Clanon said.

"Given that Ms. Vallario had a pulse when she was first seen by the medical team," Clanon wrote, "there is a substantial likelihood that she could have been resuscitated if she had been ventilated earlier."

Prison employees repeatedly tried to clear her airway but were unsuccessful, and the UC Davis doctor who reviewed Vallario's file was not critical of their efforts.

However, the UC Davis doctors questioned whether two other terminally ill inmates received proper care once they were transferred to outside hospitals. They said they could draw no firm conclusions, however, because they lacked the inmates' complete medical records.



Associated Press Writer
June 2007

SAN FRANCISCO -- The latest death at San Quentin Prison marked a gruesome landmark that underscored just how jammed up the state's capital punishment system has become: Suicides have now supplanted executions as the second leading cause of death on California's death row.

Tony Lee Reynolds' death Sunday was the 14th suicide, one more than the number of condemned inmates executed in California, since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1978.

There are now 666 inmates on death row, according to the Department of Corrections, and executions have been halted now for 16 months by a federal judge who ordered prison officials to revise their lethal injection procedures to ensure inmates don't suffer unnecessarily. The temporary moratorium will stay in place at least until state prison officials finish construction of a new death chamber designed to address the judge's concerns.

U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel said he wants to inspect the new death chamber in October if it's completed by then.

Thirty-eight inmates have died of natural causes, the leading cause of death.

"The number of executions is absurdly low," said Kent Scheidegger, director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a victims' rights group based in Sacramento. "The number of executions is low because of the great hostility the federal courts have with the death penalty."

San Quentin Prison spokesman Lt. Eric Messick said guards found Reynolds, 25, hanging from a bed sheet tied to his bunk bed Sunday night and he was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Reynolds had been sent to death row only 30 days ago for the murder and rape of a pregnant woman in Riverside County.

Messick said the average stay on death row is 17.5 years before execution.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise reported Monday that Reynolds was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. But Messick said a mental health report received by the prison staff didn't show that diagnosis and Reynolds wasn't considered a suicide risk.

"This guy didn't give us any indication," he said.

Reynolds' attorney at trial didn't return a telephone call Tuesday.

In October, the California prison system instituted a series of reforms to cut the high rate of inmate suicides, which reached a record 43 last year. A federal judge is overseeing the state's treatment of mentally ill and suicidal inmates as a result of a class-action lawsuit by prisoners alleging inadequate care.



County officials were not told of one prisoner's death until after a second inmate was fatally attacked


Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

By Stuart Pfeifer
Times Staff Writer
June 30, 2007

A mentally disturbed state prison inmate being transferred into a Los Angeles County jail last month was examined by mental health workers, who declared him fit to be placed in the general jail population.

That finding caused Kurt Karcher, a convicted killer with a bipolar disorder, to be moved into a cell with inmate Jose Daniel Cruz.

Karcher is accused of strangling Cruz a few days later, while awaiting trial on charges that he had strangled his previous cellmate at the state prison in Lancaster.

The May 22 assault has sparked internal investigations and raised questions about how well state prison and county jail officials communicate when transferring prisoners, as they do thousands of times each year.

State prison officials acknowledge that they did not provide county jailers with reports that Karcher had killed his former cellmate when they placed him in the custody of Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies so he could be closer to the downtown courthouse while awaiting trial.

Had Karcher been housed in the mental illness floor at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, it's unlikely he would have been able to harm another inmate, said Melinda Bird, who monitors the county jails as a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

"From what we understand, inmate Karcher did not receive adequate mental health care, and this is part of a larger pattern of inadequate treatment," Bird said. "In particular, this failure to coordinate with an inmate's previous treatment is absolutely widespread.

"I'm sick at heart that another inmate has died," she said, "but I'm not surprised."

County mental health officials said they were prohibited by state and federal law from discussing their treatment of Karcher. They said properly diagnosing the mental health of any inmate is difficult because so many are dishonest during screening interviews.

"The challenge for my staff is that some inmates who don't have mental illness will say they do. And some of our most severely disturbed inmates with mental illness deny they have problems and refuse treatment," said Robert Fish, a psychologist and clinical manager for treatment at the Twin Towers facility.

"Unfortunately, mental illness doesn't have a blood test that will definitively say this person has this or this person has that."

After his first cellmate was killed in Lancaster, Karcher was housed in a one-inmate cell and prescribed medication to control his mood, according to court records. However, according to several people familiar with the case, he did not receive medication at the county jail until after Cruz was attacked.

Karcher is now housed in a one-man cell and is awaiting trial on charges of killing two inmates, which could make him subject to a death sentence.

Bird said most complaints the ACLU receives from county jail inmates are about a lack of access to mental health care and medication for psychiatric conditions.

"We are very concerned about the persistent pattern of denial of psychiatric medication to inmates throughout the jail," Bird said. "We were actively pursuing this issue, even before we learned of this murder. We're pursuing it even more intensely now."

In addition to raising concerns about Karcher's mental health care in county jail, Cruz's death highlighted communication lapses between state prison and county jail officials. State prisons typically do not pass along inmates' disciplinary files — which would have included the allegation that Karcher killed a prison cellmate — to local jail officials.

Officials with the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said prison officials will often tell jail officials orally if an inmate has been violent or is an escape risk. But they couldn't say whether that happened when Karcher was transferred to sheriff's custody.

Sheriff's personnel at the jail may not have been aware that Karcher was believed to have killed a cellmate even though sheriff's detectives conducted that homicide investigation, officials said.

State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) said she believes the prisons should share information about dangerous inmates with county jails and is considering introducing legislation to require them to do so.

"It is the responsibility of the Department of Corrections to make sure that there is communication as to the risk and behavior that has occurred within the state system," said Romero, who oversees state prisons as chairwoman of the Senate Public Safety Committee.

"He was being transferred to jail because he committed something while incarcerated. That information has to be shared. To say 'we didn't need to tell you because you investigated it,' that's not good enough."

Sheriff's officials have declined to discuss details of their handling of Karcher because of an internal affairs investigation. Fifteen inmates have been slain in county jails since 2000. Sheriff Lee Baca said through a spokesman that he would support any effort to improve communication between state and local jail officials.




June 30, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A mentally ill prisoner accused of strangling a cellmate at the Los Angeles County jail was not placed in solitary even though he was facing trial over a similar slaying in state prison, officials said.

Mental health workers concluded that Kurt Karcher was fit to be in the general jail population instead of placing him in the wing for mentally ill inmates at the downtown Twin Towers jail, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

He is accused of killing Jose Daniel Cruz at the jail on May 22.

Karcher, a convicted killer who has bipolar disorder, was transferred to the jail to face charges of strangling his previous cellmate at the state prison in Lancaster, officials said.

State prison officials acknowledged they did not provide county jailers with reports that Karcher allegedly had killed his former cellmate.

County mental health officials said they were prohibited by state and federal law from discussing their treatment of Karcher, but that diagnosing the mental health of any inmate is difficult because so many are dishonest during screening interviews

"Unfortunately, mental illness doesn't have a blood test," said Robert Fish, clinical manager for treatment at Twin Towers.

Karcher is now in a one-man cell and is awaiting trial on charges of killing two inmates.




Associated Press
March 20, 2007

Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

SAN LEANDRO, CALIF. — A man believed to be responsible for the 1991 rape and strangling of a 14-year-old girl killed himself in prison hours after investigators told him DNA evidence linked him to the unsolved case, authorities said Monday.

Derick Moncada, 35, was serving time at Kern Valley State Prison for threatening his girlfriend, beating a former girlfriend and leading police on a chase when Alameda County sheriff's deputies went to question him last week about Jessica McHenry's killing.

The girl's burned body was found naked from the waist down in a ditch along a rural road in Livermore, about 40 miles east of San Francisco. She was last seen alive walking home from Granada High School earlier in the day.

Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Dudek said the March 12 interview began cordially but quickly changed when investigators asked Moncada if he knew Jessica.

"He never admitted anything," Dudek said, adding the interview ended when Moncada asked for a lawyer.

About five months earlier, investigators learned that Moncada's DNA matched samples taken from Jessica's body.

Results from a second sample taken from Moncada last week were pending, but Dudek said that test was a formality and authorities were certain Moncada was the killer.

Eight hours later, Moncada was found hanging in his cell, Dudek said.

He left behind a suicide note, professing his innocence, apologizing to his family for sullying the family name and pledging "death before dishonor," Dudek said.

A state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman said Moncada was serving more than eight years for assault with a firearm.

He was transferred to Kern Valley State Prison in Delano on March 2, after spending 14 months in a secure housing unit at Corcoran State Prison for beating up an inmate, Terry Thornton said.

Around the time of Jessica's killing, Moncada was 19, living in Livermore and working at a gas station in San Ramon.

Dudek said he's aware of at least one unsolved homicide in the area from about the same time involving a female victim who was beaten, set on fire and dumped in a ravine. She was never identified.

"We know he was a very violent person," Dudek said of Moncada. "We'll never know a lot of the 'whys.' "

Jessica's family members said they considered that a blessing.

Her brother, Nick, now 28, said he believes Moncada's suicide was the "best resolution possible."

"The night that I found out he killed himself is the first night I fell asleep without thinking about something in 16 years," Nick McHenry said, adding his biggest fear was that his sister's killer might still be hurting others.

Jessica's other siblings, now 18 and 19, along with her mother, grandparents and about a dozen friends and other family members, attended an emotional news conference where they cried and embraced investigators who had tracked the case for nearly two decades.

Moncada was to be buried Monday in Livermore.




Staff Report
Article Launched:12/01/2006 11:30:58 PM PST
Associated Press

Three days after receiving psychiatric care, a 46-year-old death row inmate hanged himself in his cell at San Quentin State prison, a spokesman said Friday.

James David Tulk, who was sentenced to death for the 1990 rape and murder of a Redding woman, was found about 11:25 p.m. Thursday hanging from a bed sheet tied to his upper bunk, said Lt. Eric Messick.

Even though they live alone, many death row inmates have double bunks and usually use the top one as a shelf, Messick said.

"This is a very determined person," Messick said, describing how an inmate would need to be in a near-kneeling position to asphyxiate.

"You'd have to fight away your survival instinct."

Tulk was hospitalized briefly on Nov. 27 for "psychiatric observation," Messick said. Tulk was not on suicide watch and it was unknown whether he had been in the past. An investigation was under way, Messick said.

Tulk also was receiving the prison's lowest level of treatment for some type of mental illness, he said, without elaborating. Messick said about 10 percent of all San Quentin inmates participate in some type of psychiatric treatment.

Tulk was fine when his cell was checked at 10 p.m., Messick said.

Officers do hourly checks on the prison's 619 death row inmates. The last confirmed suicide on death row took place in 1997, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.



Associated Press
July 3, 2007

DELANO, Calif. -- Authorities said Tuesday they are investigating the death of an inmate at Kern Valley State Prison as a homicide.

Joseph Schrembs, 45, was found dead in the locked cell he shared with another inmate shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Kern County Sheriff's Office. Schrembs and his cellmate were in an administrative segregation cell, which house the most dangerous inmates.

"Preliminary indications are it was not natural causes," said Cheryl Compoy, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections.

An autopsy was scheduled for Thursday morning.

Schrembs was serving a 36-year-to-life sentence for a second-degree murder conviction in Los Angeles County in 2001, according to state records. He had been at the Delano prison since 2005.

Kern Valley houses about 4,900 inmates.



Officials want to know if Corcoran guards, who were watching the Super Bowl,
were negligent

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
By Mark Arax, Times Staff Writer
February 5, 2004

FRESNO — All through the night, the howls kept coming from the cell of inmate Ronald Herrera.

More than one guard at Corcoran State Prison thought something was terribly amiss.

Herrera wouldn't stop screaming late Sunday, and he had covered his cell window in a curtain of toilet paper soaked in blood.

One guard had seen Herrera, a dialysis patient suffering from hepatitis, pull out the medical shunt from his arm, corrections officials said. But when the guard later tried to check on the inmate, his sergeant told him not to bother, they said. "He's not dead," the sergeant was quoted by officials as saying. "Just keep an eye on him."

The next morning, the howls had given way to silence. As a new shift made its checks, a guard saw what he said looked to be "raspberry Kool-Aid" streaming out from the cell. Inside, he found Herrera slumped over on the floor, lifeless.

Much of the blood had drained from his body, corrections officials said. Blood filled the toilet bowl and washed over the concrete floor of the 8-by-10-foot cell.

On Wednesday, Kings County and state investigators began a probe to determine if Herrera's death resulted from criminal negligence by prison staff too busy watching the Super Bowl.

The probe comes on the heels of state Senate hearings and other revelations that have shone an unflattering light on the state's vast prison system, challenging the new administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On Monday, he promised to make reforms and to "clean the place up."

A coroner's autopsy of Herrera had not been completed by early Wednesday, but corrections officials said there were signs that Herrera, a 60-year-old mentally ill burglar and rapist, had been trying to staunch the bleeding with a wad of toilet paper. It was unclear if Herrera was trying to commit suicide and then changed his mind or if something more sinister happened, corrections officials said. His desperation, they said, played out for nearly 10 hours without any intervention from staff.

Of all the horrors that have taken place at Corcoran State Prison over the last decade, one official said, the death of Herrera was particularly ghastly — and preventable.

Fearing retaliation for breaking the prison system's pervasive code of silence, the officials requested anonymity. "Corcoran has seen a lot," one said, "but for an inmate to literally bleed out his body, it was one of the goriest crime scenes."

A media spokesman for the prison said he could not comment on the case because of an ongoing investigation.

Steve Fama of the watchdog Prison Law Office said he doubted whether the Kings County district attorney's office would hold staff accountable. He noted that Dist. Atty. Ron Calhoun had been elected in 1998 partly on the strength of financial support from the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., the union representing state prison guards.

"When it's this serious, you want an aggressive, independent investigation," Fama said. "I'm not sure if the district attorney in Kings County is capable of that given the significant role that the CCPOA played in his election."

Patrick Hart, Kings County's chief deputy prosecutor, acknowledged that his office had a "fairly good working relationship" with the guards union, but he said it would not hinder the independence of the probe.

"We're not satisfied with the written reports we've gotten so far from staff," he said. "One of the things we're looking at is whether staff knew he was in trouble and failed to take the proper steps."

Herrera's case is only the latest in a series of inmate deaths at Corcoran that have raised questions about the correctional system's care of mentally ill patients and its response to suicide attempts.

In December 1998, a Corcoran inmate who had been taken off suicide watch was seen hanging in a dark corner of his cell. But rather than pop open the cell door and determine if he was alive, guards remained outside for 18 minutes while 32-year-old Michael van Straaten dangled from a noose made of bedsheets and shoelaces. When officers finally did enter and cut him loose, he was dead but his body was still warm, according to prison reports.

Two years later, on Christmas Day, an inmate with three suicide attempts succeeded in killing himself in the prison's Security Housing Unit. A lawsuit filed by the family of 26-year-old Thomas Mansfield alleged that staff negligence had allowed the suicide and that guards tried to cover up the incident by doctoring the record of cell checks.

Last year, the state settled the case out of court.

And just a week before Herrera's death, corrections officials said, three inmates in the Security Housing Unit entered into a suicide pact to protest what they called brutality by Corcoran guards. One inmate, "Tiny" Walton, went through with the pact and hanged himself.

"What I've found is the so-called suicide watch is a joke," said Bob Navarro, a Fresno attorney who represented Mansfield's family and has filed suit in a recent suicide at the women's prison in Chowchilla.

"The cells are not being checked according to written procedure."

A detailed account of Herrera's medical condition and death was provided by two corrections officials. Herrera was taking mood-altering medication at the time, but had not been seen by a psychiatric case manager since December. They said that violates prison policy, which dictates a one-on-one clinical evaluation every 30 days.

Herrera, who was not on suicide watch, began "ranting and raving" around midday Sunday, they said, and medical personnel examined him near halftime of the Super Bowl. It is not unusual for guards and inmates to watch football on weekends. At the time, the shunt that allowed him to hook up to a dialysis machine was still in place.

But Herrera's howls continued, the officials said, and he began to cover the one window in his cell with toilet paper. He used his blood to adhere the toilet paper to the glass. That alone, corrections officials said, should have prompted a team of officers to enter his cell.

"When your view into the cell is obstructed and you don't know what's going on inside, you initiate a cell extraction," one official said. "This wasn't done. In fact, there are several notations from staff indicating concern for Herrera. But the superior officers never let them check on him."

One officer became so alarmed he called his sergeant, who took a quick look from outside the cell. "This is the same female sergeant who told the officer not to bother," the official noted.

Third watch began at 2 p.m. and ended at 10 p.m. During at least some of that time, Herrera could be heard kicking at his cell door. After the Super Bowl game ended and the first watch took over, Herrera was still making a fuss, officials said.

It wasn't until shortly after 6 a.m. the next day — when the second watch began its shift — that an officer who knew Herrera decided to check in on him.

"The closer he got to the cell, he could see this pool of 'raspberry Kool-Aid,' " said one corrections official. "They popped open the door and he was lying on the ground with the shunt on the top bunk. He was pronounced dead five minutes later."

A corrections spokesman said Herrera had a long rap sheet that included convictions for burglary and rape in San Bernardino County.

Because of his status as a sex offender, he was housed in the prison's administrative-segregation unit. In recent months, he had been the victim of an inmate assault.



The device was not fully closed, letting blood flow out of the prisoner's jugular vein at Corcoran State Prison, coroner says

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
By Mark Arax, Times Staff Writer
February 7, 2004

FRESNO — An autopsy of a Corcoran State Prison inmate who bled to death in his cell overnight on Super Bowl Sunday showed that his medical shunt was not fully closed, allowing blood to flow out of his jugular vein, authorities said. The autopsy Thursday could not determine whether inmate Ronald Herrera, a 58-year-old dialysis patient, had opened the shunt's clamp in a fit of anger, or if the medical staff responding to his screams administered a sedative through the shunt and had failed to close the device.

"That is one of the questions investigators will look at," said Rene Hanavan, chief deputy coroner for Kings County. "The bleeding from the open dialysis shunt caused him to go into shock, and that shock caused his heart to beat in an irregular rhythm."

On Friday, state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who recently co-chaired a series of legislative hearings critical of the prison system, called on Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer to take over the investigation into what she called a "gruesome and completely avoidable" death.

Guards could be found criminally negligent if they were too busy watching the Super Bowl game to respond to Herrera's repeated screams.

Romero questioned whether Kings County Dist. Atty. Ron Calhoun, who was elected in 1998 on the strength of financial backing from the state prison guards' union, could conduct an independent probe of the local prison.

"A matter this serious demands an aggressive, independent investigation that will rise above political concerns or other factors that might compromise probes conducted at the local level," Romero wrote to Lockyer.

A press spokesman for the attorney general said Romero's letter had not crossed Lockyer's desk, but "when it does, we'll review it."

Patrick Hart, Kings County's chief deputy prosecutor, said a story on Herrera's death in The Times on Thursday has complicated the investigation. He said correctional officers at Corcoran might use the story to claim facts about the incident that they did not observe. Hart would not give further details of the investigation.

The story appeared on the fourth day of the probe, after written reports and logs had been examined by county investigators and word had spread throughout the prison.

Two corrections officials provided The Times with an account of Herrera's death on the condition that they not be named for fear of retaliation by superiors.

They said Herrera, a mentally ill burglar and rapist from Ventura County, began "ranting and raving" about midday Sunday.

Prison medical staff members examined Herrera near halftime of the Super Bowl and may have given him medication to calm him, they said. But Herrera kept howling and kicking at the door throughout the evening.

At one point, they said, he began to cover the window in his cell with toilet paper soaked in his blood. More than one guard thought something was terribly wrong, the officials said, but Herrera was not checked again that night. Prison policy, they said, required that the cell door be opened as soon as Herrera blocked the view with the toilet paper.

"There are several notations from staff indicating concern for Herrera," one official said. "But the superior officers never let them check on him."

A female sergeant did check from outside the cell, but she told subordinates not to bother doing anything more, they said. "He's not dead," the sergeant was quoted by the officials as saying. "Just keep an eye on him."

From one watch to the next, over a 10-hour period, Herrera continued to bleed from an opening in his shunt. It wasn't until shortly after 6 a.m. that a guard who knew Herrera decided to check on him. A large pool that looked to the guard like "raspberry Kool-Aid" was streaming out of the cell. Inside, he found Herrera slumped over on the floor, the blood drained from his body.

At least one guard reported that the cap of the shunt was sitting on Herrera's bunk, an official said. The chief deputy coroner said the rest of the shunt was attached to Herrera's upper chest at the time of the autopsy.

"Nothing appeared to be malfunctioning with the shunt itself," said Hanavan, the chief deputy coroner.

"But for whatever reason, the cap had been taken off one of the tubes and the clamp wasn't squeezed shut. The opening allowed him to bleed.

Right now, there's not enough information to say whether it's suicide or not."

Judy Greenspan of California Prison Focus, a watchdog group based in San Francisco, said she has visited dozens of Corcoran inmates who were receiving dialysis treatment in recent years. Often, she said, the shunts put in by outside dialysis centers that contract with the state are defective.

"Most of the men I visited complained of having shunts that didn't work. They had multiple operations to install new shunts, many of which still failed," Greenspan said. "To me, it represented the continuing abysmal medical care at Corcoran."



Staff didn't notice that the prisoner, an elderly priest with a history of engaging in hunger strikes, was wasting away, officials say

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
By Mark Arax, Times Staff Writer
February 20, 2004

FRESNO — An elderly prison inmate in Corcoran starved to death last week without medical or corrections staff recognizing that he had begun the last of several hunger strikes, authorities said.

Officials with the state Department of Corrections said the death of 72-year-old Khem Singh, who was so emaciated that he weighed less than 80 pounds, came as a surprise to staff at the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran. He was not being monitored at the time for weight or fluid loss, officials said.

"The whole issue is being investigated," said Margot Bach, a corrections spokeswoman. "If you're on a food or hunger strike, certain protocols must be followed. Was there any way this could have been prevented? That's the question."

Singh, a Sikh priest from India who settled in the small San Joaquin Valley town of Ceres and spoke little English, had been sentenced to 23 years for inappropriately touching a young girl. He had been visiting her house to give her Sikh religious lessons.

Behind bars, the priest protested his innocence and refused to see family members or eat a diet that didn't conform to his cultural practices, officials said.

"He came to prison in August of 2001 and he's been on and off hunger strikes ever since," Bach said. "He spent most of his time in his cell and didn't make his appointments with medical staff."

A corrections administrator who asked not to be named said that Singh's death was the result of "deliberate indifference" by the prison staff.

"It is inexcusable that an inmate could starve to death with all the medical policies and procedures that are mandated by the courts. It absolutely should never happen," he said.

Because Singh was a sex offender, he was being housed for his own safety at the substance abuse facility, which sits adjacent to Corcoran State Prison and is considered a less hostile environment.

Kings County Coroner Rene Hanavan said Singh died Saturday of heart and lung failure due to "self-imposed starvation." Singh, who stood 5-foot-6, hadn't been placed on any special watch or given any special fluids despite being severely emaciated, he said.

"It appears that the starvation was on and off for a three-month period," Hanavan said. "He had to be drinking or eating something during that time because, if not, he would have died a lot sooner."

Corrections investigators will try to determine if medical neglect played a role in Singh's death, officials said.

In a related case, Kings County prosecutors are continuing to investigate a Feb. 1 incident at Corcoran State Prison in which a 58-year-old inmate on dialysis was allowed to bleed to death in his cell during the Super Bowl.



He ignored orders to stop fighting, prison officials say

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
San Francisco Chronicle
Mark Martin
Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Friday, March 9, 2007

Sacramento -- An inmate at a Kern County prison died Thursday after being shot earlier this week by guards trying to break up a fight, corrections authorities said.

The inmate, Timothy Calnan, was shot Monday after he and another inmate attacked a third inmate in a maximum-security yard at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, officials said. Calnan died in a hospital.

The shooting comes as overcrowding has heightened tension in all of California's 33 prisons. Kern Valley, built to hold 2,448 inmates, is housing 4,949, according to a population report from last week.

Prison officials said that Calnan ignored several orders to stop fighting Monday and that guards fired four nonlethal foam pellets at the brawling inmates. When the fighting continued, an officer fired his rifle at Calnan, who was hit on his right side. One inmate who was stabbed during the fight remains hospitalized in stable condition.

The officer who shot Calnan has been placed on paid administrative leave while the incident is investigated by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's internal affairs unit and the Kern County district attorney's office.

Calnan, 41, was serving time on a third-strike conviction from San Diego County. He was sentenced to 496 years for two counts of receiving stolen property, one count of second-degree burglary, six counts of first-degree burglary, four counts of possession of a firearm by an ex-felon, one count of possession of marijuana for sale, and one count of possession of a controlled substance.



Copyright © The Sacramento Bee
San Francisco Chronicle
Andy Furillo, Bee Capitol Bureau
Friday, May 11, 2007

A California inmate serving time in a private prison in Tennessee as part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's out-of-state transfer plan died this week while watching a fight involving other California prisoners, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported Thursday.

Anthony Kelly, 48, serving eight years on a drug case, died at 8:25 p.m. Wednesday from an apparent heart attack, the prison agency said. The official cause of death is pending. Tennessee and California authorities are investigating.

Kelly died in a day room at the prison amid a fight involving 20 California inmates, the Corrections Department said. Some 80 California inmates were transported to the prison last year. Additional transfers were blocked by a lawsuit filed by two public employee unions representing California prison workers, who claim the movements violate their civil service protections under the state constitution. The lawsuit also claimed the governor's executive order that declared an overcrowding emergency, paving the way for the transfers, was illegal. The case is under appeal.



Sacramento Bee
By Andy Furillo - Bee Staff Writer
March 4, 2007

AVENAL -- For two days last December, inmate Melvin Fergerson sat slumped and naked in his prison infirmary cell, several people familiar with the case said.

Clinical personnel at Avenal State Prison checked in on the 61-year-old convicted child molester a couple of times and found him to be somewhat lethargic, but not so bad as to merit a trip to the hospital in nearby Coalinga.

By the time medical personnel realized they had a serious problem, Fergerson had stopped breathing. Efforts to revive him failed, and he was pronounced dead in his cell.

According to the Kings County Coroner's Office, Fergerson's death resulted from atherosclerotic coronary artery disease.

Federal prison medical care receiver Robert Sillen characterized the death as "horrific" and said it is under investigation by corrections officials to determine whether it was related to medical neglect.

"This was a totally unnecessary death," Sillen said.

Fergerson's death on Dec. 4 was one of three in two months at Avenal that triggered a massive response from Sillen's office. The deaths also prompted a cultural clash between medical providers and custody staff members at the prison, and they have helped turn Avenal into ground zero in the federal judiciary's oversight of California prisons.

In a Jan. 23 memo to the Department of Finance, the receiver's office describes Avenal as being in "a medical delivery crisis."

In ordering dozens of new staff members to resolve it, the document might as well have been referring to problems in the entire state prison system, for which the courts, their appointed monitors, the Legislature and the Governor's Office all are searching for solutions at a potential cost of billions of dollars. Sillen and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger agree that the state needs more prison hospitals for thousands of inmate patients. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Secretary Jim Tilton had scheduled a Tuesday visit to Avenal, 60 miles southwest of Fresno, to get a firsthand view of the most overcrowded prison in the state. He postponed the visit late Friday and plans to reschedule it.

"It is an example of the problems that are within every institution in the system," corrections spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said of Avenal.

Designed for 2,920 inmates when it opened in 1987, Avenal as of Feb. 21 housed 7,489 low-medium security prisoners, an overcrowding rate of 256 percent.

"If in fact the facilities were adequate when the place was constructed, they're totally inadequate at this point in time," Sillen said.

More than 1,000 inmates are serving life terms, helping to make Avenal's population one of the oldest and sickest in the state. It also has a mental health caseload of more than 1,000 inmates and hundreds more disabled prisoners.

Inmates' rights lawyers have won federal class-action lawsuits overseeing medical care, mental health treatment and disability access in the prisons, putting Avenal in the cross hairs of courts in Sacramento and San Francisco that are considering population caps and early-release orders.

"It's a huge problem," Prison Law Office attorney Steve Fama said of Avenal. His firm represented plaintiffs in the three class-action lawsuits.

After Fergerson's death, Sillen's office ordered the creation of 50 new clinical positions at Avenal. On Friday, Sillen said he is planning to order the creation of 20 new custody positions at the infirmary -- to be funded through overtime payments -- to help handle the constant stream of inmate medical transports to outside hospitals.

Sillen visited Avenal on Feb. 1. In the ensuing weeks, a team of doctors from the University of California, San Francisco, swept into Avenal under his direction and began ordering dozens of inmates out of the prison for medical visits to local hospitals. "It was a crisis situation, and we did take immediate steps to relieve it," receiver spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said. Last Monday, the prison sent 33 inmates on medical transports; each required two-officer escorts.

At the Coalinga Regional Medical Center, an estimated 30 green-clad officers -- including some from nearby Pleasant Valley State Prison -- crowded the halls in one wing of the hospital, sitting around while clinicians examined inmate-patients.

Hospital Nursing Supervisor Lori Bryan called the situation "pretty normal."

"They're here to protect us, and we're here for patient care," Bryan said.

Avenal Warden Kathy Mendoza-Powers said that since Sillen's visit, out-of-prison inmate transports have jumped from about 10 a day to 30. She said the escorts have forced her to spend more on overtime to replace the officers who are out of the prison. Still, Mendoza-Powers said, she supports Sillen's efforts to fix medical care at the prison.

"We want to see health care appropriate for inmates," Mendoza-Powers said. "If he can help, good."

Maggie Huddleston, the nursing director at the prison, said that medical care was "grinding down" at Avenal until Sillen showed up.

"He helped us get the resources we need to do a better job," Huddleston said.

In the housing units, some of the correctional officers expressed frustration with the receiver and his team. They said in interviews that inmates are asking for and receiving medical transports for minor maladies such as the flu, athlete's foot and constipation. Officers accused inmates of faking chest pains to get virtual day passes out of the prison. They also decried convicts' access to expensive medical equipment such as mobile CAT scans.

"Our members think the inmates are pretty much getting over on the medical staff and having fun with it," said Tim Grove, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association chapter vice president at Avenal.

Grove said that "everybody's for adequate health care for inmates," but that "some of (Sillen's) people are going over the top."

But in one triple-bunked gym at the prison, inmate James Vensel, 46, said the pre-Sillen state of medical affairs at Avenal nearly cost him his life.

Vensel, who is finishing a five-year term for petty theft with a prior offense, said it took him two months to see a doctor after he was transferred to Avenal last year, even though he complained about headaches and earaches and had a tumor cut out of his brain stem during a previous prison stay in 2000. A magnetic resonance imaging test showed he had a new tumor the size of a baseball, Vensel said. It was removed in August. "The doctor said if I didn't have the surgery, in two weeks I was going to die," Vensel said.

Just staying healthy on a day-to-day basis in the severely overcrowded prison is a problem, said inmate Richard Jump, 41. "Somebody gets a cold and is coughing on one side of the unit, and two days later, it's all over the unit," said Jump, who is about halfway through a seven-year, eight-month term on a conviction for being a felon in possession of a gun.

Compounding the overcrowding problem, Jump said, are constant plumbing breakdowns that have reduced the number of working toilets for the 150 inmates in the gym from eight to five. Inmates said the water pressure gets so low at times that they have to keep buckets of water nearby to flush the toilets. Correctional Officer O. Perez, a 10-year veteran, was one of two custody staff members watching the 150 inmates in the gym during the Monday visit. She said the tripling of the medical transports forced prison officials to shut down exercise yards and send fuming inmates back into the gym, adding to what are already problematic safety conditions for staff members. "It might not seem like a lot to take two officers out, but it is, especially when we need extra eyes and bodies," Perez said. "It takes away from our safety."

Sillen said he recognizes that the prison system has 4,000 officer vacancies. "I sympathize with that," he said, adding that the 20 new officer positions he's ordered for the prison should help alleviate the custody crunch at Avenal.

In the meantime, he said, the prison is going to have to make some adjustments.

"If the option is to leave a patient in the prison to die, that is not an option," Sillen said.


Last Monday, correctional officers from Avenal State Prison escorted 33 inmates to four outlying hospitals to treat various ailments or attend medical appointments. Here are some of the reasons:

• Blood loss, vomiting
• Osteomyelitis toe
• Dialysis, gangrenous fingers
• Shunt repair
• Valley fever (five patients)
• Anemia
• Diabetes
• Knee problem
• Pneumonia
• Prostate cancer
• Cellulitis left leg
• Possible suicide attempt
• Cardiomyopathy
• Ear, nose and throat consult
• CT scan (two patients)
• Hematology/oncology
• PET scan
• Ophthalmology consult (three patients)
• Orthopedic consult (two patients)
• Neurology consult Sources: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Prison Health Care Receivership



From the Los Angeles Times
Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times
From Times Staff and Wire Reports
April 3, 2006

A 48-year-old inmate killed himself at the Sacramento County Jail, renewing pressure on a facility that has seen five suicides since last year.

The inmate, whose name was not released, was found hanging from a door Friday when his cellmate returned from the visiting room, a sheriff's sergeant said.

The man, who had been in jail since Wednesday on federal robbery charges, gave no indication he was suicidal, officials said.

Sheriff's officials reviewed policies and stepped up training to spot suicidal behavior after seven inmates committed suicide in 2002, officials said.

Jail staff have overhauled most cells to remove holes in bunks that inmates had used to hang themselves. In February, an audit criticized jail officials for not doing more to stem the number of suicides.



From the Los Angeles Times
Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times From a Times Staff Writer

February 25, 2006

Howard McCowan, a former USC football player whose promising career was cut off when he went to prison for robbery and kidnapping, has died at High Desert State Prison in Susanville, Calif.

McCowan, 34, was found unconscious in his cell during a routine check, said prison spokesman Dennis Gunter. The cause of death was under investigation by the Lassen County coroner.

McCowan, a standout player at Carson High School, was a starting safety for USC when he and teammate Marcel Brown robbed several pedestrians in Westwood in 1991.

Last month, McCowan was featured in a Times story on the USC footballv team that won the 1990 Rose Bowl.

He served seven years in prison and re-enrolled at USC after his release.

But in 2001, on the verge of completing his degree, he robbed a Los Angeles liquor store. That crime, added to his previous offenses, made him a three-strikes felon, and he was imprisoned for life.



By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer
(Updated Thursday, September 1, 2005, 5:40 PM)

SACRAMENTO (AP) - An 18-year-old ward killed himself at a Stockton youth prison, officials said Thursday, leading critics to renew their calls for closing the facility.

It was the first suicide this year in the youth prison system but follows twin suicides at a different facility in January 2004. Those deaths were part of a series of events that triggered several investigations into the way California treats its young offenders.

Joseph Daniel Maldonado was found Wednesday evening hanged with a bed sheet in his cell at Stockton's N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility, said Julio Calderon, a spokesman with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Wards in his housing unit had been locked in their cells since a gang fight last week, Calderon said, but Maldonado had exhibited no suicidal tendencies and left no note. He was serving a term for vehicle theft in Sacramento County and was assigned to his own cell.

The death was a day after six Chaderjian guards were ordered reinstated to their jobs. They had been fired after a videotaped beating of two wards last year.

"This facility must be closed today," said Lenore Anderson, director of the reform group Books Not Bars. "It is beneath the dignity of all Californians to keep this facility open."

Admissions to Chaderjian have been halted while department officials consider whether it should be closed.

"This (suicide) points to a continued failure at Chad in particular," said state Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, who has called for its closure.

The apparent suicide comes as a federal judge considers whether state prison officials are acting quickly enough to address problems in the adult system, which has the nation's highest rate of suicides.



The Associated Press
(Updated Thursday, January 5, 2006, 10:50 AM)
Information from: San Mateo County Times

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) - San Mateo County has settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a woman with a history of mental health problems who killed herself while in jail, officials said.

The county agreed to pay $475,000 to the parents of Angela Ramirez, 23, who hanged herself with a bedsheet in the showers of the Women's Correctional Center in Redwood City in April 2003, according to attorneys on both sides.

The woman's parents, Lisa Fidler and Rito Ramirez, had initially sought $11 million in federal claims but agreed to settle last month after deciding the case would be too difficult to try in federal court, said Randall Scarlett, one of their attorneys.

The settlement does not include an admission of wrongdoing by the county.

The suit alleged that the jail's staff was aware of Ramirez's mental health problems - she had been diagnosed as psychotic - but denied her help. She was serving a 120-day sentence on a minor drug conviction at the time.

Sheriff Don Horsley said that all staff members at the jail have been trained in suicide prevention. He acknowledged that a personnel shortage and the jail's poor layout made it difficult to supervise



Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
From Times Staff and Wire Reports
August 2, 2005

An inmate at the California Institute for Men was found hanging in his cell Sunday afternoon, and his death is being investigated as an apparent suicide, state officials said.

Officials believe that Larry Bryan Dunbar, 44, took his life while officers and other inmates were in the prison yard. Dunbar was taken to the prison's emergency room but was pronounced dead upon arrival, Warden Michael Poulos said.

Dunbar entered the California Department of Corrections system in late April for assault and driving under the influence. On June 13, he was transferred to the minimum security California Rehabilitation Center in Norco. By June 29, Dunbar was sent to the more restricted Institute for Men for "disciplinary reasons," Poulos said.



Second man in a week hangs himself at the facility

Sacramento Bee
By Christina Jewett and Mareva Brown -- Bee Staff Writers
Published 2:15 am PST Friday, March 11, 2005

The second man to commit suicide in a week at the Sacramento County downtown jail died Thursday morning in the same manner Joel Lee Wayne did last Friday, officials said.

A 46-year-old man who was being held on federal charges hanged himself with a sheet from his bunk within one hour of the last time deputies checked on him, Sheriff's Department spokesman R.L. Davis said. The man's name was not released by coroner's officials Thursday.

Georgia Wayne, the mother of a 24-year-old man found dead just after 1 a.m. last Friday, expressed shock at the recent death.

"When are they going to do something about it?" she said. "I just, you know, I just find this so hard to believe my son did this. I honestly do."

Wayne was in jail awaiting a plea bargain on charges of possession of methamphetamine with intention to distribute and being a felon in possession of a firearm, his attorney, Dan Brace, said.

Georgia Wayne said she had recently sent him a book about the late singer Johnny Cash and more recently had gotten a copy of a poem he wrote in his cell about feeling alone.

Seven people killed themselves in the jail in 2002, sparking the formation of a task force that reported to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.

Davis said the task force's recommendations led to a 64-unit psychiatric care pod that is near the medical staff. Group therapy sessions also started recently, he said.

"We feel it's a tragedy that anyone feels at any point that they have to take their own life," Davis said.

Officials said Wayne had been in the jail for just more than a year and the man who died Thursday for six months.

Davis said both men who took their lives in the last week were housed with the general population and did not have cellmates. Davis said he cannot disclose whether either had a history of mental health problems.

Defense attorney Tom Neil, who sued on behalf of a man who killed himself in the jail in 2002, said his client had a long history of mental illness that was never known to jailers until Julien Louis Provencher, 47, killed himself.

"We're really using jails now as mental health hospitals," he said. "Only the worst of the worst get help in there. They have to be howling at the moon for that to happen." He said Santa Clara County has a mental health court and puts offenders on a probation plan that involves mental-health care follow-up.

Stewart Katz, a defense attorney who represented four men who committed suicide in the jail, said signs were apparent before one of them died.

"They found (Mohammad Reza Abdollahi) with a strip of a sheet around his neck, put him back in his cell, took away the sheet and left him with the blanket," Katz said.

Abdollahi took his own life, hanging himself with the blanket.

Defense attorney Tommy Clinkenbeard, who tried to get the state attorney general's office to investigate the high rate of suicides in 2002, said the problems in Sacramento County's downtown jail are intrinsic and cannot be easily fixed.

"The jail is a very clinical, dreary, depressing environment," he said. "You have a lot of young guards, fresh out of the academy, who have not learned how to handle the authority they have."

Clinkenbeard said one byproduct of the Sheriff's Department's attempt to cut down suicides in 2002 was a notice posted on attorney visiting rooms asking lawyers to notify jail psychiatric staff if their clients seemed depressed.

"They may not initially appear suicidal, but after they're there a few weeks, it wears them down, and they end up doing drastic things," said Clinkenbeard, who represented accused mass killer Nikolai Soltys, who committed suicide in the jail in February 2002.

On Thursday, Georgia Wayne said she was having a hard time getting her son's belongings or talking to someone at the jail who knew more than the facts in an item printed in The Bee.

"How can this happen? How can this be?" she said. "I don't know. If this is two in a week, somebody better start doing some damn investigation as to why."



David Trujillo Lopez, 29, hangs himself in his cell after telling relatives by phone that he has nothing to live for following convictions for mistreating his 7-year-old daughter

Second man in a week hangs himself at the facility

Copyright © The Sacramento Bee
By Mareva Brown and Ramon Coronado -- Bee Staff Writers
Published 2:15 am PDT Friday, April 8, 2005

Hours after calling family members to say goodbye Thursday morning, a man convicted this week of torturing his 7-year-old daughter apparently hanged himself in his jail isolation cell.

Family members of David Trujillo Lopez said he sounded depressed when he called them at about 1 a.m. Thursday. But deputies at the jail who chatted with him then, and checked on him 40 minutes before finding him dead, said he did not give any indication he might be suicidal, officials said.

Lopez, 29, whose trial was marked by his angry outbursts at the judge and verbal attacks on his attorney, was found at 4:20 a.m. with a noose around his neck that had been fashioned from a jail bedsheet, according to Sacramento County Sheriff's Sgt. R.L. Davis. He was pronounced dead eight minutes later, according to coroner's records.

"His voice was very calm. He was very depressed," said Lopez's cousin, Sandra Trujillo-Perez, who spoke with him shortly after 1 a.m. "He said he had nothing to live for. He said, 'Make sure my kids know me the way I was, not the way I was pictured in court and the newspaper.' "

Family members mourned Lopez as a frightened man who reacted with anger when he saw his freedom threatened by the criminal case.

He was convicted Tuesday of 12 felony charges, including torturing and beating his daughter, who was in his temporary custody at the time.

Witnesses said he yanked the child off the ground so violently her scalp ripped away from her skull, prompting her eyes to swell shut.

During the trial, the girl testified she was forced to kneel on an upside-down plastic chair mat with the "poky side up" as punishment and paddled with an 18-inch-long wooden back-scratcher for such disobedience as not doing her homework.

After jurors announced their guilty verdict Tuesday, Lopez shouted at the judge, "I've got a lot of things I want to put on the record," prompting six deputies to close in on the defendant and the judge to shout back, "I'm not going to take the time now."

Lopez repeatedly exploded in fits of anger during the two-week trial and yelled relentlessly at his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Michael Nelson, with such rage that, at one point, deputies locked Lopez's hands in chains.

Nelson said Thursday he was shocked at the news of his client's suicide. "I never saw any indicators that would lead one to believe he would take his life," Nelson said. "His friends and family all cared very much about David. They saw how he went overboard with discipline and knew he had been wrong, but like myself, not one of them believed he intended to cause the harm that he did."

Prosecutor Valerie Brown, who was the frequent target of Lopez's verbal attacks during the trial, said she saw nothing to indicate Lopez was despondent - just angry. At one point, Lopez threw a handful of court records at her.

"It is regrettable when things like this happen," Brown said. "I feel compassion for the people this affects, especially the little girl."

Lopez's death marks the third jail suicide since early March, a rate that has alarmed sheriff's officials, who still are sensitive about a rash of seven suicides in 2002 and the resulting public outcry.

Last year, two inmates committed suicide at the downtown high-rise jail.

Assistant Sheriff David Lind said Thursday that Lopez was not considered a problem inmate, despite his courtroom antics.

Deputies allowed him an extra recreation period, from 11 to 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night, and also agreed to let him use the telephone between 1 and 2 a.m. Thursday "because after the conviction he was bummed out," Lind said.

Davis, the sheriff's spokesman, said Lopez was housed in an isolation cell because the nature of his crimes would make him a target for other inmates. He was checked hourly.

"You can't put people who hurt children in the general (jail) population," Davis said.

Lopez's cousin, Trujillo-Perez, said Lopez was taunted and threatened anyway, particularly after a story on the trial appeared in The Bee.

"They called him 'child scalper,' " Trujillo-Perez said of other prisoners. "Inmates were telling him, 'Get ready for death.' The trusty who gave him his food asked him if he wanted Ajax in his food."

The District Attorney's Office said Lopez had tried to keep the nature of his crimes quiet in the jail, and that newspaper coverage of his trial infuriated him because it blew his cover.

In court, he sneered and cursed at The Bee reporter covering the trial.

When deputies began investigating Lopez's death in the jail, they discovered a note "indicating he was extremely upset with the article in The Sacramento Bee," Davis said.

Officials have not released the contents of the note, saying only that it was "brief" and that they do not consider it a suicide note.

Another cousin, Angela Aguilera, said Lopez's public displays and the nature of his crimes obscured a sweeter man.

"My cousin was a good-hearted guy," she said. "Yes, there was a lot of anger. But he was backed into a corner and he was fighting for his life."

About the writer:
The Bee's Mareva Brown can be reached at (916) 321-1088 or



By Sandra Gonzales
Mercury News
Article Launched: 09/11/2007 08:12:01 PM PDT

Authorities launched a criminal investigation into the death of a 20-year-old inmate Tuesday at the Elmwood Correctional Facility.

Shortly after 4 p.m., the inmate's cellmate reported that the man was unresponsive, said Santa Clara County jail spokeman Mark Cursi.

Cursi said correctional officers attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation but failed to revive the inmate, who was still in his bed. He was declared dead at the scene, and there is no apparent cause of death.

The inmate, whose name was not released, was awaiting trial on undisclosed felony charges and was being held in medium security.



Sacramento Bee
07/09/07 18:00:54

Folsom State Prison was locked down Monday following the fatal stabbing of a 36-year-old inmate from San Diego. The victim was stabbed several times with a flat piece of metal during a fight early Monday morning in the prison's main yard. He died about 15 minutes later, according to Cheryl Campoy, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Campoy said the attacker was also injured by guards who used pepper spray and batons in an attempt to stop the fight, but his injuries were not life threatening.

Authorities did not release the names of either man. The victim was serving a 15-year-to-life sentence for second-degree murder. His attacker, a 46-year-old inmate from Placer County, is serving a life sentence for murder, carjacking and kidnapping.

Because of the lock down, prison authorities canceled a graduation ceremony scheduled for Tuesday morning for inmates who had completed academic and vocational training programs.

During a lock down, visitors are not allowed and prisoners may only leave their cells to eat, go to medical care or other appointments.



Authorities say wounds of the teacher convicted of killing a woman were self-inflicted.

By Nancy Wride
Times Staff Writer
January 30, 2004
Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

A Long Beach high school teacher sentenced to prison for murdering his lover, a former classroom aide, was found dead Thursday on his county jail cell bunk with self-inflicted cuts to his neck, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

Pedro Tepoz-Leon, 35, was found at 5 a.m. and declared dead at the scene in the downtown Los Angeles Twin Towers correctional facility, the department said.

Tepoz-Leon, once described by students as easygoing and popular, had been returned to the jail late Wednesday after receiving a 26- years-to-life prison term for the murder of his girlfriend, Mayra Mora Lopez, 19. A jury deliberated less than an hour before convicting Tepoz-Leon, who on Oct. 24, 2002, strangled and beat Lopez and cut her neck five times in their Long Beach apartment.

The Sheriff's Department released a brief statement on the death that did not address when it was that Tepoz-Leon had injured himself, whether other inmates were sleeping in the cell at the time, or whether he had been on suicide watch. The sheriff's homicide unit is investigating the death.

Tepoz-Leon had a history of cutting himself. After killing Lopez, he inflicted what authorities called superficial cuts on his neck and upper chest. Tepoz-Leon had insisted that Lopez had stabbed him during an argument.

In 1990, Tepoz-Leon slashed himself after he attacked a former girlfriend. Long Beach police found him in a bathtub, one of his wrists cut. He was convicted of misdemeanor battery for that beating. A Spanish teacher and girls soccer coach at Woodrow Wilson High, Tepoz-Leon was hired by the Long Beach Unified School District in 1992 as a teacher's aide. In his job application, he disclosed his conviction for misdemeanor battery and a 90-day jail sentence, but lied about the fact that he was still on probation.



Families of two teenage offenders found dead in a shared cell say officials did not keep adequate watch over the Ione facility's wards.

By Monte Morin and Allison Hoffman
Times Staff Writers
January 24, 2004
Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

Families of two juvenile offenders found hanged in their shared cell at a youth correctional facility in Ione, Calif., faulted caretakers Friday for failing to keep adequate watch over the wards.

The bodies of Deon Whitfield, 17, of Los Angeles and Durrell Tadon Feaster, 18, of Stockton were discovered Monday afternoon in a routine check of their cell at the Preston Youth Correctional Facility.

Preliminary autopsy results released Wednesday by the Amador County Sheriff's Office cited asphyxiation as the cause of death.

The pair used bedsheets tied to a bed support to hang themselves, officials said.

Initially, relatives of the two youths suspected that they died at the hands of white supremacist gang members at the 640-bed facility, pointing out that the youths were black and that they died on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Though authorities said the youths lacked marks indicating a struggle, and that the incident appeared to be a "straight suicide," the mother of one youth said she refused to believe that he would take his own life.

"I'm not buying that," Feaster's mother, Gloria Feaster, told KCRA-TV in Sacramento. "I don't care what the state or anybody has to say about it…. I oppose that thought."

But on Friday, a lawyer for Whitfield's relatives said that the youth should have been under special mental health supervision.

"I've never heard of a case where two young kids who were probably both suicidal were placed in a cell together," said lawyer Sonia Mercado. "The question is, why were these young men bunked together? Why weren't they under more care? The facility should have been looking out for them. That's their job."

Officials at the California Youth Authority say they are reviewing the incident, even as the Ione Police Department and the Amador County Sheriff's Office continue their investigation.

The pair were found about 1:30 p.m. Monday during a regular half- hourly check of their cell. Under normal circumstances, the pair would have been attending high school classes at the prison, but because of the holiday, they did not have school and were locked in their narrow cell.

"The staff looked into the room and saw two wards that appeared to be making a suicide gesture," said California Youth Authority spokesman George Kostyrko. "She quickly opened the door, and staff rushed in and cut them free.

They attempted CPR and paramedics who arrived a few minutes later attempted CPR. Basically, they succeeded in their suicide attempt." Sheriff's Sgt. Mark Lawrence said the youths left two letters, "one to family members and another note passed around to other members inside." Authorities would not say what the pair had written in the notes.

Lawrence said a staff member had checked the cell at 1 p.m. and found no problems. When she returned at 1:23 p.m., she found the pair hanging from a pipe that supports the cell's narrow upper bunk. The final autopsy report will be written when toxicology results are returned in a few weeks, Lawrence said.

Whitfield was committed to the CYA in August for possession of hard narcotics and attempted burglary.

Feaster was committed in October 2001 for grand theft, fraud, auto theft and receiving stolen property.

Kostyrko said there appeared to be no reason to place the youths under stricter supervision than periodic half-hour checks.

Some wards have on five-minute checks or are kept under video surveillance if matters warrant, he said.

Kostyrko said there have been 56 attempted suicides in CYA facilities statewide since June 2000. The last suicides at Preston were in 1996, Kostyrko said.



The Associated Press
Last Updated 6:58 pm PDT Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A convicted murderer serving a life sentence at Pelican Bay State Prison was found dead in his cell, apparently the victim of homicide, authorities said Tuesday.

Steven Langley, 55, was found dead Sunday morning in the cell he shared with another inmate, Richard Miles.

Authorities did not release a cause of death Tuesday.

The Del Norte County district attorney's office was investigating. No suspects were immediately named.

Langley was convicted in 1985 of two counts of murder in San Bernardino County and was serving a life term without the possibility of parole, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Miles, 53, also was serving a life term on a San Joaquin County conviction for carjacking and assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, the department said.


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