Death of Central Valley prison inmate is investigated as a possible homicide

The death of a Valley State Prison inmate is being investigated as a possible homicide, officials said Monday.

Efrain Rodriguez, 44, was found unresponsive on Thanksgiving morning in a dormitory at the Chowchilla facility, according to a prison statement.

“Life-saving measures were initiated and an ambulance was called to the scene, but the inmate was pronounced dead at 9:45 a.m.,” the statement read.

Officials are awaiting an autopsy to determine the cause of death, said Lt. Ronald Ladd, a public information officer with the prison.

Rodriguez was received by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from Los Angeles County in June 2015 and was serving a two-year, eight-month sentence for second-degree burglary and possession of a controlled substance, officials said. 

The incident is being investigated by the prison’s investigative services unit. The eight-man dormitory was sealed as a crime scene and inmates housed there at the time have been transferred to the administrative segregation unit pending investigation, according to the statement. 

The Madera County district attorney’s office, coroner’s office and CDCR Special Service unit are assisting with the investigation. 

No staff members were injured as a result of the incident, officials said.

Valley State Prison was established in 1995 and functions as a Level II, general population institution housing inmates requiring so-called sensitive-needs yard placement.

Such inmates cannot be housed in the general population because of safety concerns and include gang dropouts, sex offenders and those who have been labeled informants, Ladd said.

The prison also houses inmates who require higher levels of mental health treatment and have been assigned to the enhanced outpatient program for inmates.   

“Our entire institution is a sensitive needs institution,” Ladd said.

brittny.mejia@latimes.com

Twitter: @Brittny_Mejia

 


UPDATES:

4:30 p.m.: This article has been updated to include the dead inmate’s name.

This article was originally published Nov. 28 at 1:20 p.m.

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