Inmate who had health issues found dead at O.C. Jail

Times Staff Writer

An Orange County Jail inmate who had turned himself in Friday to begin serving a 35-day sentence for driving under the influence died in his sleep early Sunday morning, a sheriff's official said.

Scott McCollum, 47, of Huntington Beach was found dead in his cell at Central Men's Jail at 4:45 a.m., said Lt. Ted Boyne of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

The cause of death had not been determined, but Boyne and McCollum's brother-in-law said he suffered from several medical problems, including asthma. The death was being investigated by the district attorney's office. Both the Sheriff's Department and McCollum's family said they did not suspect foul play. But the death comes at a time when the Orange County jail system is under heightened scrutiny over its treatment of inmates.

In the wake of two high-profile cases of alleged mistreatment of inmates, including one in which an inmate was beaten to death by fellow prisoners while his cries for help went unheeded, acting Sheriff Jack Anderson last week proposed changing the decades-old system of placing rookie deputies in the jails before they go on to other duties, and instead staffing the jails with career correctional officers.

In addition, a county grand jury has been collecting evidence for months about the department's management of the jail system. The report could be released as early as this week.

The allegations of poor management have not involved failure to provide adequate medical care. Boyne said the department was aware of McCollum's health problems and had been trying to provide proper treatment.

"There was concern for his health, and we were making provisions for that," he said. "He was under close medical scrutiny."

McCollum's brother-in-law, Jeff Martuszewski, said Sunday that the family was surprised and saddened to learn of his death. Martuszewski said McCollum appeared stressed and worried before reporting to serve his sentence Friday but that he did not seem ill. He said McCollum took a variety of medications to treat asthma, a heart condition and a back injury and that investigators came to the house Sunday and took about a dozen of his prescription drugs as part of their review.

christian.berthelsen@ latimes.com

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