Cell Check Missed Beheaded Inmate: IG Reports

Guards instead reported both California prisoners were alive
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2021 1:34 PM CDT
Guards Didn't See Inmate Being Decapitated
Jaime Osuna in court during his sentencing in 2017. He's been found incompetent to stand trial in his cellmate's slaying.   (Felix Adamo/The Bakersfield Californian via AP, File)

It must have taken hours to decapitate and dissect the body of Luis Romero in his cell at California's Corcoran State Prison. But the guards, who were supposed to be checking the cells, didn't see anything. In fact, they reported that everyone was fine, according to two reports just issued by the inspector general's office about the 2019 slaying, the Los Angeles Times reports. The IG is critical of the state corrections department's investigation, as well as its delay in disciplining the guards. The agency has defended its handling of the case. Romero's family has sued, and a lawyer said the new reports shed light on the prison system's "veil of secrecy" around corrections officers' behavior, including lying in the investigation of Romero's death. In fact, the suit says a white sheet covered the cell bars that day.

The family also questions why Romero was in a cell with Jaime Osuna in the first place. The satanist had attacked cellmates before. Both were in prison on murder convictions; Osuna had tortured a woman. The two had shared a cell for two days, per the Times. Osumna killed Romero using a blade attached to a handle, officials said, and a prosecutor maintains that Romero was conscious "during at least a portion" of an assault that amounted to torture. Osuna was ruled not competent to stand trial and has been transferred to psychiatric custody. The guards on duty that day were punished with suspensions and temporary salary cuts. The reports said another pair of officers didn't report the guards' failure to check cells. The corrections department did not supply information about what the guards were doing during the slaying. (More prisons stories.)

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