CORCORAN, Calif. (AP) — According to two new reports from the state inspector's general office, prison
guards on their rounds reported that both men were alive shortly after the sadistic torture slaying and beheading of a convicted killer in a California
prison, apparently at the hands of his cellmate.
According to the Los Angeles
Times, the reports on California prisons raise new questions about the heinous attack
at Corcoran State Prison in March 2019, which prompted investigations and a lawsuit
by the victim's family, Luis Romero.
According to state documents, Jaime Osuna, 31, is accused of decapitating and dissecting Romero with a homemade knife, removing an eye, a finger, and a portion of the man's lung.
One of the reports criticizes the California Department of Corrections
and Rehabilitation for conducting a poor investigation and delaying disciplinary action against the guards.
The officers' failure to notice the grisly scene earlier is not explained in the reports, according to the Times, but a lawsuit filed by Romero's family alleges that the bars were covered by a white sheet, implying that the guards failed to conduct a thorough search of the cell.
The Department of Corrections disputed the reports' findings, claiming in a statement that it had conducted a "thorough and complete investigation from the start."
According to the newspaper, the family's lawsuit also questions why Romero was placed in the same cell as Osuna, a convicted killer and "self-styled satanist" who has a history of attacking his cellmates.
“It is disheartening that my client had to sue to get basic questions about her son’s death
answered,” said Justin Sterling, Romero’s mother’s attorney.
The guards were supposed to check the cell every so often, Sterling told the Times, and the crime
would have taken hours to complete; if the guards had done their job, Romero would still be alive today, he said.
According to the lawsuit, Romero was placed in the cell with Osuna after arriving from Mule Creek State Prison. He was convicted of second-degree murder
after fatally shooting
a woman in Compton as a teenager and associating with gang members, and he was nearing parole
Osuna, his new cellmate, was serving a life sentence for the murder and torture of Yvette Pena, 37, in a Bakersfield motel in 2011. He became a dark figure during the 2017 trial
, mocking the victim's family and bragging to a television
news reporter about his love of torturing people
According to authorities, Osuna tortured and killed Romero sometime in the early hours of March 9, 2019.
According to an autopsy, Osuna cut Romero's head with a razor-style blade attached to a handle, and posed the body
by slicing Romero's face open on either side of his mouth to resemble an extended smile.
According to the New York
Times, guards discovered Osuna wearing a necklace made from Romero's body parts.
“We do believe that the victim was conscious during at least a portion of the time,” said Kings County Executive Assistant Dist. Atty. Phil Esbenshade.
According to the newspaper, Osuna has been transferred to the psychiatric inpatient program at Salinas Valley State Prison, where he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder.
A judge ruled that Osuna lacks the mental capacity to stand trial for Romero's death.