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Death of inmate in Lancaster prison investigated as homicide

The death of a 39-year-old inmate at a Lancaster prison is being investigated as a homicide, state officials said Monday.

Rashell Clarke was found unresponsive Saturday in his cell in State Prison-Los Angeles County, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Staff called for an ambulance and tried to resuscitate Clarke, but he was pronounced dead about 11:30 a.m., less than an hour after he was found.

Clarke had arrived at the prison in early 2010 for a nearly 23-year sentence stemming from a child abuse and endangerment case in Shasta County, correctional officials said in the statement.

Investigators suspect Clarke was slain and have begun questioning Clarke's cellmate, Leron Morris of Contra Costa County, the corrections agency said.

An inmate at the prison for more than a decade, Morris, 33, was convicted of murder and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno.

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