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Lancaster prison inmate's death was homicide, officials suspect

The death of a male inmate at the state prison in Lancaster on Sunday is being investigated as a homicide, and his cellmate is the main suspect, authorities said.

The dead man was serving a sentence for a second-degree robbery committed in Los Angeles County.

Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the suspect passed a note to guards at breakfast time saying his cellmate appeared to be dead. Guards found the dead man "in his bunk, under the blanket," and emergency efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, Thornton said. 

Coroner officials noticed "something suspicious" on the body that led them to consider the death a homicide.

Authorities were not releasing details about the evidence nor the names of the dead man or his cellmate until their preliminary investigation is complete.  

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent homicide detectives to the scene to assist state prison officials.

The suspect is being held in single-person cell until "we see how the investigation progresses," Thornton said.

This death is the fourth suspected homicide in the state prison system since early October, she added.

-- Larry Gordon

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