This Orange County jail inmate was placed in a cell with a confessed double murderer. Now he’s dead.

Five members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department have been placed on leave pending an investigation into the death of a 27-year-old jail inmate who was placed inside a cell with an accused double-murderer.

Danny Pham was found dead in his Orange County jail cell July 3, just days before completing a 180-day sentence for auto theft. The cause of death has not been released, but his attorney suspects it’s a homicide. If so, he’s got a pretty good suspect: Marvin Magallanes, an Anaheim man who has admitted to killing two homeless men and is suspected of having mental problems. He was inexplicably placed in a cell with Pham.

Both the District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department are conducting separate investigations into Pham’s death. They’re looking into possible breach of protocol by jail officials. The attorney for Pham’s family said they plan to file a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department Monday.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department had taken a lot of heat over the conditions at its jails recently. In June, a bombshell report by the ACLU documented an atmosphere of violence and squalor at the facilities and called conditions “inhumane”. Just after its release, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens announced she would not seek reelection. She disputes the ACLU’s findings, however, and says they did not factor into her decision at all.

The Orange County Register and the L.A. Times have more on this developing story.


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